The U.S. Army will now allow recruits with a history of mental health issues including self-harm and mutilation, USAToday reports.
The move is reportedly part of a major Army drive to increase recruitment amongst its ranks and hit new quotas mandated until September 2018. It will allow candidates with a history of “self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse.”
“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available,” Lt. Col. Randy Taylor told USAToday, adding that a stringent process would remain in place for recruits to receive a waiver.
“The burden of proof is on the applicant to provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered,” a memo obtained by USAtoday reads. The decision to allow such candidates with a history of mental health issues however could pose a risk to the future of the force. High profile incidents have involved candidates with history of such issues.
These include the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who walked off his base in Afghanistan in 2009 only to become a Taliban prisoner for 5 years. Bergdahl was freed after former President Barack Obama freed five high risk detainee’s from Guantanamo bay. U.S. Army investigators found that Bergdahl suffered from delusions and naïveté and discovered that he had been ejected from Coast Guard training in 2006 for mental health reasons. This history was not, however, reviewed prior to his enlistment.