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Army lifts ban on recruits with history of self-mutilation, drug and alcohol abuse

A U.S. Army command sergeant waits in the tunnel before an NFL football game on Sunday.
A U.S. Army command sergeant waits in the tunnel before an NFL football game on Sunday. AP

People with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, depression and bipolar disorder can now seek waivers to join the Army, according to USA TODAY.

Self-mutilation is the “intentional act of tissue destruction with the purpose of shifting overwhelming emotional pain to a more acceptable physical pain,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This commonly includes the cutting of skin with razors or knives, but also includes biting, hitting, or bruising oneself; picking or pulling at skin or hair; burning oneself with lighted cigarettes; or amputating parts of the body.

In 2009 the Army issued a ban on waivers as suicides among troops skyrocketed.

The news outlet reported that the unannounced policy was enacted in August, and that the decision comes as the service faces the tough challenge of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by September 2018.

Last year’s goal was 69,000. The Army met it by accepting recruits who performed poorly on aptitude tests, reports say. The Army also increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in financial bonuses.

“In fiscal year 2017, it paid out $424 million in bonuses, up from $284 million in 2016. In 2014, that figure was only $8.2 million. Some recruits can qualify for a bonus of $40,000,” wrote USA TODAY.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Randy Taylor told the news outlet that the waiver expansion was possible because the government has more access to applicants’ medical records.

“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available,” Taylor said. “These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”

The Army would not disclose how many waivers have been issued since the policy change.

Follow Monique O. Madan on Twitter: @MoniqueOMadan

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