Waiver change could help more people with mental illness enlist - WSMV News 4

Waiver change could help more people with mental illness enlist in Army

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

People with mental illness who want to serve in the U.S. Army could have an easier time enlisting.

A recent move allows more staff members, instead of only top Army officials, to grant waivers to those with mental health issues.

Jeff Fladen, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is in support of the move.

“If they have been homicidal or suicidal, and been in a psychiatric hospital, that is very different than having depression or having smoked marijuana. It’s like heart disease or cancer. You can have something that doesn't interfere much with your life, or you can have a very serious case. That’s true with mental health also,” Fladen said.

He said it’s a step towards removing the stigma.

“Mental illness is part of life and how we manage. We are not just going to send it away somewhere,” Fladen said.

Veteran Robert Rose Jr. believes the move is dangerous.

“You are going to stick someone in there with a known mental issue into a situation that is going to cause them to go postal?" Rose said.

Rose said he went into the military with some mental health issues, and when he left, it was even worse.

“Seeing men die, friends of mine die, traumatized the PTSD,” he said.

A spokesman with the U.S. Army said reports from other news outlets on the change were inaccurate.

Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands sent News 4 this statement:

Recent reports that the Army has changed medical entrance standards for those with mental health issues are inaccurate. The Army has made no such policy change and follows the accession standards prescribed by the Department of Defense.

Previously, these waiver requests could only be approved at the Department of Army Headquarters level. What the Army has done is change the delegation authority over who may consider a waiver, allowing those requests to be reviewed and approved by U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or in the case of the National Guard, by the State Adjutant General. Unfortunately, this simple, administrative change has been substantially misinterpreted.

It's also important to note that the conditions themselves have been unfairly characterized. For example, a child who received behavioral counseling at age 10 would be forever banned from military service were it not for the ability to make a waiver request. We're not prepared to close the door on such individuals who are otherwise medically, mentally and physically qualified for military service. We think this is the right thing for our Army, and the selfless young men and women who wish to serve.

The U.S. Army has a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by September 2018.

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