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John McCain wants to block Pentagon confirmations over this Army policy

John McCain opposes the Army's policy to allow recruits with a history of mental health issues to pursue waivers for enlistment. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

John McCain doesn’t like the Army’s decision to allow people with a history of mental health issues to seek waivers for enlistment, and he’s willing to put a hold on Pentagon nominations until he gets some answers.

McCain is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and both he and Sen. Jack Reed, the committee's ranking Democrat, share concerns about the policy.

“If you took a poll of this committee right now I doubt if you’d find a single one who would be approving of this practice, which we now find out about reading the daily newspaper,” McCain said.

The policy

The Army enacted a policy allowing people with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse to seek waivers to join the Army. The policy change came in August, and was unannounced.

Applicants have to provide a “clear and meritorious case" for why they should be accepted despite their history.

Reason for the change

The Army has a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September of 2018.

If last year was any indication, meeting that goal will be a challenge. In order to hit last year’s 69,000 recruit goal, the Army had to lower standards for acceptable scores on aptitude tests and granted more waivers for marijuana use.

The Army said in a statement that the policy change is also because they have better access to applicants’ medical records.

McCain vows to fight back

McCain claims to have found out about the policy change from USA Today’s article Monday. He blamed the Trump administration and the Pentagon for not communicating well with Congress.

The Army would nor reveal how many waivers have been issued since the August policy change. So, McCain said he will block confirmations for Pentagon jobs until he gets the information he wants.

“The United States Army will not respond to us as to how many waivers have been issued since the policy was changed,” McCain said. “What you do to us here is you face us with an unacceptable option, and that is, to get the information, which you just verbally heard…is to stop confirming people for jobs.”

(H/T USA Today)

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