Mental health in the military has always been a point of contention, particularly for the Army, which for years have experienced more mental illness diagnoses than any other branch, according to Pentagon reports.
Last year, the Army accepted 1.9 percent "Category Four" recruits - those who score the lowest on military aptitude tests, or about 1,311 soldiers. Randy Taylor told the news outlet that the waiver expansion was possible because the government has more access to applicants' medical records.
Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army in 2010, spoke to USA Today and said the decision to rescind the ban on some mental health-related waivers is in part due to recruiting difficulties.
In 2009 the Army issued a ban on waivers as suicides among troops skyrocketed.
"The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available", Lt. Col. 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. "Some recruits can qualify for a bonus of $40,000", wrote USA TODAY.
Taylor, the Army spokesman, said there had been cases where highly qualified applicants had been passed over because of incidents in their childhoods and that new information allowed the Army to evaluate the "whole person" when considering a waiver.
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Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, dozens of U.S. Army soldiers carried out abuse, torture and rape on inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison, including Reserve Soldier Lynndie Rana England, who had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder before joining the Army.
"For all waivers", one memo states, "the burden of proof is on the applicant to provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered". But people who were waived for ADHD did just fine.
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc.
In the same period, waivers for marijuana use more than doubled, jumping from 191 to 506.
The Army took 1.9% of its almost 69,000 recruits from Category Four, which refers to prospects who scored in the lower one-third of standard military exams.
The Pentagon mandates that each service accept no more than 4 percent from Category Four. While some point to a strong economy as the reason for the trouble making recruiting quotas, others think that other reasons could explain the difficulty.
The force has significantly increased the amount of bonuses it pays out to those who join - going from $8.2 million in total in 2014 to $284 million in 2016 and reaching $424 million in fiscal year 2017.
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