Army Lifts Ban on Recruits With Some Mental Illnesses

US soldiers stand at attention during a ceremony at Bagram air base

Documents obtained over the weekend by USA Today show a willingness to consider applicants with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse.

The Army is also offering more bonuses to recruits, paying $424 million in bonuses, up from $284 million in 2016.

Mental health waivers were banned in 2009 to stem a surge of military suicides.

"Recent reports that the Army has changed medical entrance standards for those with mental health issues are inaccurate", Seamands wrote, according to Army Times.

Mental illness behaviors can also disrupt the functioning of units and affect other soldiers.

The Army has already been accepting people who fare poorly on aptitude tests. One example occurred in 2006, when a US soldier who was accepted after a criminal activity waiver raped an Iraqi girl and killed her family.

But Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel, said that despite USA Today's story, no outright bans on enlistment were lifted. Those with histories of self-mutilation require "a detailed statement from the applicant, medical records, evidence from an employer if the injury was job-related, photos submitted by the recruiter and a psychiatric evaluation and "clearance".

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Since this announcement came to light there have been psychiatrists speaking out about the potential dangers of expanding the waivers for mental health conditions - that can potentially resurface while in the Army.

"The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available", Taylor told USA TODAY.

The Army did not respond to a request for information on how many waivers had been issued for mental health issues. He later walked off his Army post in Afghanistan, sparking his five-year capture by the Taliban.

The U.S. Army quietly made it easier this summer for individuals with some history of mental health problems to enlist in the service, but a top general pushed back Tuesday on a report the Army had relaxed standards to meet increased recruiting goals.

Kelley followed eight other USA veterans to carry out shooting sprees since 2009, each case tied to inadequately-addressed mental health issues.

The new policy enables the Army to widen its pool of applicants, according to Elspeth Ritchie, an expert on waivers for military service.

The Army has had trouble recruiting during strong economic times, contributing to a recent decline in enrollment.