WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Army commanders aren't punishing for discharge or demanding treatment for soldiers testing positive for substance abuse, a top Army official said.
In a memo, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, said hundreds of soldiers involved in "substance abuse-related misconduct," including multiple drug-test failures, weren't processed for possible discharge, USA Today reported Thursday. He also said many weren't referred to the Army Substance Abuse Program, either.
The May 8 memo was provided to USA Today.
During a meeting this week with Army officials, Chiarelli said he was most concerned that "commanders feel a requirement to keep their numbers up" for combat deployments, the newspaper said. He said learned of this attitude when he visited Army installations to examine strain on soldiers and address the record number of suicides reported in the Army.
Identifying and treating substance abuse would help improve the Army's mental health treatment as well as help lower the suicide rate, which was a record 142 confirmed or suspected cases in 2008, the general said.
"I am asking you to ensure that soldiers are provided the help that they need when they need it," Chiarelli said in the memo to commanders, "and that regulatory requirements regarding the referral and initiation of separation processing of substance abusers are enforced."