Army accepts recruits with mental health waivers

| November 13, 2017 | 87 Comments

According to USAToday, Army recruits with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now apply for waivers to enlist. They cite an unannounced policy shift that took affect a few months ago in order to get the 80,000 new soldiers they’ll need this fiscal year.

To meet last year’s goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.

Expanding the waivers for mental health is possible in part because the Army now has access to more medical information about each potential recruit, Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman, said in a statement. The Army issued the ban on waivers in 2009 amid an epidemic of suicides among troops.

“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available,” Taylor’s statement to USA TODAY said. “These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”

But accepting recruits with those mental health conditions in their past carries risks, according to Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010 and is an expert on waivers for military service. People with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have those issues resurface than those who do not, she said.

Of course, who could have seen this coming when the Army was booting everyone a few years back and then they decided to fill the ranks with deviants, which really isn’t the recruiting draw the Army pointy-headed bean counters thought. I’m guessing the gays didn’t flock to the recruiting stations like the folks in the Puzzle Palace had hoped.

Also, taking on the cutters, dopers and the depressed also justifies letting the transgenders in the military with the other mental health problems.

A few years from now, when the derelicts are back on the street, we can go back to our regular posts defending folks who legitimately suffer from PTSD as opposed to the media-manufactured cases that will spring from these initial entry failures.

I guess our ships at sea ramming civilian vessels while the sailors are hiding in the engine room aren’t enough of a lesson for the Army.

Thanks to Bobo for the link.

Category: Army News

Comments (87)

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  1. CB Senior says:

    I have always found that hyper-stressed situations help make people with mental health issues for comfortable and even keeled.


  2. CB Senior says:

    more comfortable

  3. Ret_25X says:

    A retired Sergeants Major take:

    We have proven we are not capable of dealing with emotional and mental illness issues within the Army. In addition, these are issues we should not have to deal with ordinarily.

    The point of screening recruits is to ensure that NCOs and Commanders can focus energy on training and readiness, not the needs of those who cannot be trained or made ready.

    This will result in more “scandals” like the issue out at Fort Lewis, where the commanders and NCOs will find ways to push people out onto the streets as expeditiously as possible.

    One of the reasons I retired when I did was because the Army somehow came to believe that as an NCO I would be equipped to have people in my formation completely incapable of accepting correction or exhibiting disciplined behavior. I’m not sure how the Army in the Pentagram…err…Pentagon came to believe this would work, but it only gets worse from here.

    Great move, big green machine, you selected the only option that can only fail.

  4. Stacy0311 says:

    2 more years to retire in grade. 2 more years…..

    • Deplorable B Woodman says:

      Good luck to you. And may you not be in a position over these misfits.
      Rule of thumb: 90% of the troops take up 10% of your time. 10% of the troops take up 90% of your time.

  5. 1AirCav69 says:

    As a 30 year retired Psychotherapist working exclusively with Combat Vets, Active duty and their families, and recruits on Parris Island, I can only say that I’m appalled. Make room for all the Bergdauls of the United States, and even worse, that Texas murdering piece of shit. Idiots!

  6. RetiredDevilDoc8404 says:

    WTF. Who thought this was a good idea? Raise your hand anyone who thinks this is going to cause a lot more problems than it will solve. They’re going to set the majority of these kids up for epic failure how many more turds like Manning and Bergdahl does the Army need before they figure out you need HIGHER not lower standards re. mental health. Then you’re gonna saddle the VA with more vets with more mental health issues exacerbated by military service – FFS, they can’t do a decent job treating the legit guys now. Whoever came up with this idea either needs a dope slap (or six) with a Louisville Slugger to the cranial region or needs an emergency consult with his/her proctologist because that nasty rectal cranial impaction has reoccured.

  7. Berliner says:

    I see a contract for more rubber rifles in the future.

  8. Jerry920 says:

    Ugh, this brings to mind the CAT IV enlistees from the 70’s. In my early enlisted days (1976 and onward) we had more than a few enlisted that I would describe as “Bat-S$%t” crazy. Luckily recruitment was on the rise and we were able to get them out.

    • David says:

      Had the identical thought – knew one fella who would constantly babble to himself in training, and when he got to his permanent duty unit not only continued his aberrant behavior but would stand up in crowded gasthauses and give pro-Nazi speeches. Batshit crazy.

    • RM3(SS) says:

      Just to present the other side, we had a CAT 4 waiver guy in my boot camp company. He tried out and made BUD/S. As far as I know, he made it through and became a SEAL. This was 1971.
      I guess the exception proves the rule or something like that. 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      Try 14Ts until the service recently started drawing down… 20% who give you 80% of your problems.

  9. thebesig says:

    I’m glad that I’m retired.

    It’s bad enough that I’m seeing a similar erosion of discipline and respect in the Army ranks that I saw a couple decades earlier take place in the Navy ranks.

    In the mid 1990s, Navy COs waged a “war for bodies”, for retention purposes, as people were leaving in droves. In order to keep people in, discipline and the old Navy way of doing things to maintain discipline and focus on seamanship gave way to catering to those who’d rather things go their way… And that the Navy adjust to them… Instead of having things like accountability, responsibility, courtesy, respect, etc.

    The Army is already there, and now they’re going to aggravate a deteriorating situation by making these accommodation to add bodies to formations where an increasing number of people expect the military to adjust to them instead of the military expecting them to adjust to the military.

  10. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Whatever happened to seeking the best possible candidates?

    If you can’t get the best possible perhaps, instead of immediately lowering the bar for all the fucknuts you can find, it might be appropriate to consider why the best possible candidates want nothing to do with signing on.

    Maybe instead of fucking veterans at every turn and changing the parameters of their contract with shit like stop/loss the government could actually honor its side of the contract and keep its word for a change.

    Otherwise dipshits who cut themselves and have mental issues might be the best options we’re left with.

    God help the cadre in that case.

  11. CPT11A says:

    This is a tough one for me.

    I suffered from depression during my early days in the Army. I went down to the AMC and asked to talk to someone about “thoughts I was having”. I naively thought it’d be confidential and I’d hop back to work once the weekend ended. Instead, they called my command and my battalion gave me the boot. I don’t like talking about this- I had an issue, made a decision and then faced some unpleasant consequences. It is what it is.

    I redeemed myself (I think). Eventually, I got another platoon, wherein I succeeded, deployed to the land of the Afghans for the better part of a year, got promoted and am now a company commander. The dark thoughts that plagued me when I was younger have not resurfaced (or, if they have, I have not mentioned them to anyone). Without going into the nitty-gritty, that’s as straight forward as I can describe it.

    So might there be people with less than optimal psych histories who could succeed in the military? Sure. Would all such people do so? No. How do we pick and choose? For some reason, the Army didn’t write me off and that worked out (mostly). I don’t want to pull the ladder up behind me, if you will, but how do we tell which depressed person is going to pan out as a soldier? I really don’t know.

    • MrBill says:

      I’m sure there’s a fair number of people like you who hit a rough patch, deal with it, and move on. And there are probably kids who had some not uncommon teenage drama while growing up, whose parents took them to a doctor and ended up with a diagnosis – but now that they’re grown they’re as stable as anyone else. So if the waiver authority is judiciously applied, it could allow some folks to successfully serve who might not have gotten the opportunity before. But if the standards are loosened too far, and borderline folks are let in under pressure to make numbers, I can see it backfiring big time.

    • Thunderstixx says:

      Thanks for putting that out. I also dealt with issues from my childhood.
      I was able to put it behind me for the most part and became a decent soldier right about the time I got out.
      The US Army saved my soul for me and I owe them a debt of gratitude that I’ll never be able to repay. The same as the VA has saved my life 3 times and my soul once, working on twice right now…

      • RM3(SS) says:

        I completely agree Thunderstixx. I’ve said for a long time the Navy saved me from myself. When I was a teen, I ran with a really bad crowd, a lot of them are dead or in prison. I didn’t care about consequences, just wanted to have fun. The Navy taught me personal responsibility and matured me enough to actually become somewhat of a decent human being. I was too young to appreciate it then, but I sure do now.

  12. Ex-PH2 says:

    Well, why not just recruit us old frts, too? I could use the extra cash.

  13. Ex-PH2 says:

    My cat Punkin Squawkypants somehow got her head stuck in the slats in the back of a kitchen chair this morning.

    I think that qualifies her completely for the program.

    Where do I sign her up?

  14. Graybeard says:

    I certainly hope that Mad Dog gets aholt of this & gets them straightened out.

    This is beyond stupid. This is, IMHO, an intentional attempt to destroy the U.S. Army from the inside and should be construed as sabotage.

  15. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Who’s the intellectual fucking wizard who came up with that? Just what the US Army needs, more “Heads” as well as more Bowe Bergdahls and Bradley Manning’s! Who made that decision, some holdover from the previous administration?

  16. 26Limabeans says:

    Be all you can be…

  17. IDC SARC says:

    Well, I for one am glad the the U.S. Army has seen fit to removal the stigma attached to mental illness and substance abuse.

    At least they know what they’re getting. It’s all those quiet, athletic recruits with good grades, a stable family and a sense of community that have somehow never had an issue….you gotta watch out for them, fo realz.


  18. CCO says:

    Yeah, the Good Idea Fairy really hit one out of the park with this one.

  19. Steve1371 says:

    There can be no doubt the seeds of failure were planted during the Obama administration. Way too many of his flunkees are still embedded through our government. We have to continue to drain the swamp.

  20. Hondo says:

    And once again, the US taxpayer takes it in the shorts – both short term and long term.

    Short term: I’m guessing a larger % of recruits accepted with mental health waivers will wash out. That’s training funds wasted.

    Long Term, #1: some of those who don’t wash out will end up non-deployable, or will end up requiring extensive treatment while serving. Some will likely end up requiring MEDEVAC while deployed. All of those will end up costing more.

    Long Term, #2: one of our resident lawyers can correct me if I’m wrong, but waiving an otherwise disqualifying condition would seem to mean that the military has just accepted service-connection for any worsening of that condition which occurs during military service. So the VA will end up paying for the treatment of many if not most of those mental conditions so waived for the life of those receiving the waiver.

    So remember, taxpayers: Bless Our Home, It’s Christmas Almost. Or just use the acronym.

    • Stacy0311 says:

      Nah, the VA will just say the mental condition was pre-existing so they’re not responsible for it. I seem to recall the Army booting people recently for personality disorders that they determined were pre-existing.

      • Hondo says:

        Personality disorders don’t develop overnight. So if one shows up during IET, a reasonable presumption is that it was a preexisting condition that had not previously been diagnosed or was intentionally hidden by the individual.

        If it was a preexisting condition that was not discovered prior to enlistment or appointment, a medical discharge for a preexisting disqualifying condition is precisely what should happen. That’s doubly true if the condition was intentionally hidden.

        It’s a very different story here. If the condition is documented as having existed prior to service and the military knowingly waives it, then the military has just accepted it as being “OK”. That means if it’s worsened by military service, it will be service-connected.

        The waiver process itself would serve to document both the disclosure by the individual and the military’s acceptance of them with that condition.

        • Rock says:

          If a veteran with a preexisting condition that is waived upon entry into the service can demonstrate to the VA that military service aggravated the condition, then the VA can deem that even though the condition was preexisting, since military service worsened it, it is indeed able to be rated.

          I have mostly seen this for orthopedic injuries, such as a bad knee from high school football that gets destroyed from the demands of the service.

          I’ve personally had maybe five veterans try to claim that military service exacerbated their waived ADHD, anxiety disorders, or depression and usually upon comparing their STRs to their civilian medical records, it’s typically bull shit. Especially when you’re in non-combat roles.

        • Stacy0311 says:

          I believe it was the Army was using the excuse “pre-existing condition” to toss soldiers who were discipline problems and diagnosed mental health issues. The Army would say “it’s not PTSD/TBI, it’s a pre-existing undisclosed personality disorder. Therefore OTH is appropriate.”

          I’ll have to work my Google-Fu to find the stats

      • IDC SARC says:

        Personality disorders by definition according to the DSM-V are “enduring patterns of of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible,has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time and leads to distress or impairment.”

        So, yeah. Pretty much a preexisting condition.

    • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

      Hmm Your acronym seems so to be the polite version…I’m not certain I’ve ever heard it put so eloquently before.

  21. Green Thumb says:

    This will only get worse.

  22. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    Okay, so give them blanks for a trial enlistment run.

  23. David says:

    Let me see, everyone is whining because Trump rescinded a BHO order which wouldn’t let people who couldn’t balance their checkbooks buy guns. So instead we want to give bipolar and self-harming folks access to automatic weapons. I understand… Now in fairness, if someone has a minor teenaged incident, has grown up, handled it, and moved on – there is some sense in not letting one mistake screw up their life forever. But if they are babbling-at-the-walls-batchit, this is a very, very bad idea.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      At the same time, just because someone has no record of criminal activity in the past, it does not mean that s/he won’t be tempted to steal from a fund set up for a specific purpose, does it?

      And likewise, with all those ‘conduct unbecoming’ dismissals prior to today, including all that Fat Leonard stuff, there’s no way to tell in advance who is or is not easily corrupted by offerings of cash, sex, and bling, is it?

    • Anonymous says:

      First it was no ADD, then it was no ADD since 12, then it was no ADD meds in the last 3 years, then it was “off ADD meds” today… yeah, this’ll be fun.

  24. Michael Yates says:

    Had one ready to walk to the gate for discharge under limited mental capacity and his mother called begging me to “keep him and make him a man”. Told her she should have sent me something to work with and hung up.
    Damn old First Sgt

  25. Skippy says:

    So rumor has it the army is standing up a new Division….
    called the Adam Lanza Division they have to fill those ranks somehow
    😂 😂 🤣 😅 😂
    Seriously WTF is WRONG with the Army ???

  26. Bill R. says:

    My brother’s ex is bi-polar. She is a certifiable lunatic. Sorry, but it is true. At least once a year her meds stop working and he has to have her committed until they can find a new med that works. Then the cycle repeats itself. Between this and the fact that she maxes out their credit cards, he pays them off, and she does it again, he finally divorced her because it was beginning to affect his health. People with provable disorders do not belong in the military. I was Air Force and I had enough stress on the flightline. I know soldiers are treated much worse than we were.

  27. Adam says:

    I don’t think recruiting cutters were the sort of increased lethality Secretary Mattis had in mind.

  28. Rock says:

    From what I head this was an idea of an intelligence officer who is forming a top secret squad of people they deem expendable…The Suicide Squad.

  29. timactual says:

    But I was assured that the New, Improved, All Volunteer Army would solve all our recruiting and retention problems.

    I do not mind in the least saying “I told you so”. I thought going to a volunteer Army was a bad idea then, and I still think so.

    • Old 1SG, US Army (retired) says:

      The draft ended in 1973… so nothing “new” about VOLAR.

      As someone who enlisted shortly after Viet Nam ended I can say that we had our fair share of duds among the VOLAR enlistees. I also served with several former draftees (now volunteers since they had reenlisted) that were not the sharpest spoons in a mess kit, if you know what I mean.

      However, we had bigger problems including lingering racial issues, drugs, lack of junior officers and NCOs, parts, equipment and money. Remember the peace dividend? Just like post Korean war, post Vietnam saw a cut in military budgets and a drawdown in strength.

      I’m not sure you can really say that VOLAR hasn’t worked. Some draftees were great soldiers and some were not. Same goes for volunteers. Of course you can argue the cost of recruiting budgets vs running the Selective Service, etc.

      Having also served as an Army recruiter (DA directed) in the early ’80s, very rarely (maybe once in 3 years) could we enlist “CatIVs” and waivers were difficult for other than minor law violations and minor medical problems.

      The bottom line is that regardless of where we find our recruits they need to be capable of doing their jobs. We need to stop lowering our standards for sake of political correctness or to make our recruiting mission.

      This is just another social experiment that will have to backfire before anyone does anything about it. Unfortunately, like most social programs and feel good exercises, they seldom go away.

  30. CM says:

    No, just no. These are issues just waiting to either cause the death of an honorable fellow soldier or cause some unneeded baloney because someone want to feel special. This is overly and utterly a “no”. Every single person who has served.. actually every single person both who have served or not know the track record of issues these people leave in their wake. Terrible decision. Veteran groups need to stand up to this one, write letters, and, yet again, protect others while the “decision makers” sit with thumb up ass.

    • Green Thumb says:

      They won’t.

      Some of them believe they need to help everyone to include the ever-enlarging sub-standard discharge crowd who will be begging for benefits.

      Everyone has an excuse

      It seem that being Honorably Discharged is something of the past.

      Fuck ’em,

  31. Lars Taylor's Narcissism says:

    You guys are worrying too much. That ban wasn’t in place when I came in; we’re talking about people like me. The Army, the country, and you guys benefited greatly from my contributions and performance in the Army, at Berkeley, and here.

  32. FatCircles0311 says:

    Any reports of Sec Def Mattis knifehanding officers at the pentagon at the cyclic rate yet?

  33. Angry B says:

    My son is an athletic college junior in an extremely demanding STEM major. He’s been talking to me about applying for OCS after he graduates (and after I’ve finished paying for his education;)…feels he has an obligation to serve his country. I imagine the military would be happy to have him. Until I learned that a history of cutting/bipolar/depression is no longer being a bar to enlistment, I was pleased to encourage him.

    Being in the military is dangerous enough–SMs die on the front lines and while in routine training. As a parent, I have reservations about him leading Soldiers with questionable mental health histories who’ve been knowingly recruited.

    The Pentagon brass have lost their minds.

  34. Just An Old Dog says:

    Well they let that crazy ass Lilyea Feller’ in.

    Just being the devil’s advocate here. With all the nanny-pamby shit going on in the past two decades and our weak ass society there have been a shitload of kids thrown in to counseling, diagnosed and medicated when all they needed was mom or dad to spend some time with them and show them the way to deal with shit.
    Some kids do go down a dark path and others straighten the fuck up. I think the key is that they NOT be on medication for at least two years and they be given a thorough exam by a wizard.


    What’s next??? The ‘Very Special Forces’ with shortbus APC’s??

    Up here, the dullards are offered the MO of Steward or Cook.


    Better pre-order some ACU pattern ‘I Love Me Jackets’ from the lowest bidder.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Because Bowe Bergdahl, Bradley Manning and all those dudes who killed themselves without seeing any combat weren’t enough!

  38. AnotherPat says:

    Update to this story:

    “The Army is in full damage control mode following an explosive story that the service had in August lifted a ban on granting waivers for history of mental health disorders and substance abuse.”

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