McCain threatens to block nominees over Army waiver report

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

The U.S. Army said Monday it has made no changes to its policy for granting mental health waivers to recruits entering the service.

But accepting recruits with those mental health conditions in their past carries risks, according to Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010 and is an expert on waivers for military service.

The Army signed off on the new policy in August but never announced it, according to USA Today, which first reported the news.

The decision came as the availability of medical records and other data increased, allowing army officials to better document applicants.

The service has a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018.

"The burden of proof is on the applicant to provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered", an Army memo said.

The real issue for me is the ability of the USA armed forces to offer those with mental-health issues real support-medical and otherwise-especially in light of what soldiers face, either those with diagnoses before they enter the armed forces or those who develop mental-health conditions after.

But since 2009, waivers for mental health have been banned.

"There's so many gradations of mental illness", Edwards said. Appropriate documentation will be reviewed by the Army and a psychological evaluation will be completed, officials told USA Today. The recruiting officials said they have not been instructed to seek less-than-stellar candidates for the Army.

"You're widening your pool of applicants", she said, adding that individuals with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have those issues resurface than those who do not.

If the committee does not get answers on the issue, McCain said, "we stop confirming people for jobs".

Worse still, mental health problems could present themselves at inopportune times, such as during a combat deployment, she said. "Why take people in the Army who are already vulnerable to conditions we know people who are perfectly healthy are susceptible to in combat situations?"

For example, a history of self-mutilation, such as cutting or burning, typically is a chronic condition and a sign of additional mental health problems, said Dr. Charles A. Morgan, a forensic psychiatrist who teaches at the University of New Haven and Yale University in CT. But people who were waived for ADHD did just fine.

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