Army drops plans to give waivers to recruits with history of mental illness

The Army's top officer said Wednesday that the service had "rescinded" a controversial memo permitting people with a history of severe mental illness to seek waivers allowing them to join up.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters the memo was "unauthorized" and its author did not have the authority to change the Army's recruitment policy.

"It was rescinded last night," Milley said of the memo, which was dated Sept. 7 of this year and initially reported by USA Today on Sunday.

"There wasn’t a change in policy," Milley added. "There cannot be a change in policy by someone who doesn’t have the authority to change policy. I know it sounds circular."

According to the memo, potential recruits with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, and drug and alcohol abuse would be eligible to obtain waivers to join the Army.

"For all waivers," the memo specified, "the burden of proof is on the applicant to provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered."

Milley said the Army had done a "terrible" job explaining the waiver policy. He explained that in August, the Army delegated decisions on accepting recruits to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC). Snow has the ultimate authority over waivers.

"There’s a whole series of prohibitions from coming into the military," Gen. Milley said. "We haven’t changed any of those."