The U.S. Army said Monday it has made no changes to its policy for granting mental health waivers to recruits entering the service.
A statement from Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for Army personnel (G1), came a day after USA Today reported that people with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the service under an unannounced policy enacted in August.
"Recent reports that the Army has changed medical entrance standards for those with mental health issues are inaccurate," Seamands said in the statement. "The Army has made no such policy change and follows the accession standards prescribed by the Department of Defense."
USA Today reported the decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018.
To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use, and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, the outlet reported.
The Army, however, said it made a "simple, administrative change" to how waiver requests are approved, Seamands said.
"Previously, these waiver requests could only be approved at the Department of Army Headquarters level," Seamands said. "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."
Seamands said that 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," he said. "We think this is the right thing for our Army, and the selfless young men and women who wish to serve."
The statement, however, didn't address whether the Army granted waivers to individuals who had practiced self-mutilation, such as slashing the skin with sharp instruments -- a behavior that can signal deeper mental health issues, according to USA Today.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.