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U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper Calls for Probe of Army Recruiting Practices

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. CONGRESSMAN JIM COOPER CALLS FOR PROBE OF ARMY RECRUITING PRACTICES

U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper this week sent a letter to Chairman Vic Snyder of the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee urging him to investigate Army recruiting practices. Citing the results of an undercover investigation by television station WTVF in Nashville, Cooper asked whether military recruiters are pressuring applicants to lie about their mental health status in order to get into the armed services.

"As you know, our military is currently stretched to the breaking point, but evading recruitment standards and weakening the integrity of our combat forces is no way to solve the myriad problems we face," Cooper wrote. "If prospective soldiers are being encouraged to lie about mental illness during intake, the problem is more widespread and fundamental than was previously known."

Cooper continued: "I hope you will conduct an investigation to determine how widespread this type of fraud is, and pending the results of that investigation, you may deem a subcommittee hearing on mental health issues in military recruiting in order. Our armed forces are too important for this problem to go unnoticed."

The full text of the letter follows.

May 9, 2007

The Honorable Vic Snyder

Chairman, Personnel Subcommittee

House Armed Services Committee

2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Snyder:

I am writing to call your attention to some disturbing news about military recruiting practices, as recently uncovered by a Nashville television station.

In a series of investigative reports, WTVF documented Army recruiters encouraging applicants to lie about their mental health status so they could meet official military recruiting standards. One recruiter, persuading an undercover WTVF reporter not to disclose his Zoloft prescription, said, "Me and you are the only ones who know itÂ…almost like, don't ask, don't tell. You don't tell." The station documented these practices at three recruiting stations in Middle Tennessee alone. Most troublingly, family members of a soldier who committed suicide in basic training allege that he was encouraged not to disclose his mental illness prescription during the recruitment process. I have enclosed transcripts of the reports that have aired so far; they can also be viewed online at www.wtvf.com.

As you know, our military is currently stretched to the breaking point, but evading recruitment standards and weakening the integrity of our combat forces is no way to solve the myriad problems we face. In the wake of the Iraq War, we discovered that our armed services have been slow to diagnose and treat serious mental health issues stemming from or exacerbated by the stress of combat. If prospective soldiers are being encouraged to lie about mental illness during intake, the problem is more widespread and fundamental than was previously known.

Recruiting practices such as those uncovered in Tennessee should alarm us all, and if they are happening at three locations in Middle Tennessee, they are likely happening elsewhere. I hope you will conduct an investigation to determine how widespread this type of fraud is, and pending the results of that investigation, you may deem a subcommittee hearing on mental health issues in military recruiting in order. Our armed forces are too important for this problem to go unnoticed.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and for your continued leadership on the Personnel Subcommittee. I look forward to continuing our service together on the Armed Services Committee.

Sincerely,

Jim Cooper

Cc: The Honorable Ike Skelton, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

Enclosures: WTVF story transcript, part 1

WTVF story transcript, part 2

WTVF recruiting command reaction email


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