Military Recruiters Under Fire for Weak Medical Testing ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The Defense Resources Agency - the institution that recruits conscripts into the military - has fallen under criticism for its medical committee's evaluation practices, which critics say allow unhealthy individuals to make the cut.

Defense Forces psychologist Urve Kaur wrote in a Postimees opinion piece yesterday that the agency's medical committee has systemically recruited unqualified individuals.

"The medical committee's work cannot be considered satisfactory if it recruits a young man with an intellectual disability, who even has problems with dressing himself; at the same time the committee's psychiatrist has in the course of a conversation lasting just a few minutes managed to make a diagnosis of a psychological disability, which the conscript then disputed; also recruited are men diagnosed with asthma, fractures, severely limited upper limb mobility, migraine aura and psychological disorders. A colleague of mine knows of an instance in which a one-handed young man was sent into service,“ Kaur wrote.

"As the highest form of arrogance, none of the conscripts sent into service at the beginning of July by the agency's medical committee in Tallinn were even evaluated for their eyesight,” Kaur said.

The military psychologist has blamed the agency's assessment methodology for the purported incompetence. Since 2007, the Defense Resources Agency has used the Thomas Personal Profile Analysis system, used by the British for making personnel decisions. Kaur claims, however, that the system is not suitable for military recruitment, and that it is not used by any other military in the world. The system, she explains, is not a physical test but a methodology for conducting interviews.

Kaur said her assertions have been confirmed by a study conducted jointly by the University of Tartu and the National Defense College. “The study's conclusion was crushing for Thomas: the method is not suitable in the military context,“ Kaur said.

Additionally, a third of respondents in a conscript satisfaction survey said they were not satisfied with the work of the medical committee, Kaur said. The Defense Forces' own medics and professionals tasked with training conscripts are also distressed with the situation, she added.

Another critic emerging yesterday, Ret. Lt. Col. Leo Kunnas, who is a regular commentator on military issues, told Postimees the Defense Resources Agency has been dysfunctional from the start due to the fact that it is not overseen by the military. Employees in the non-military institution do not necessarily have military experience, he said, and therefore do not necessarily have a good overview of what military service entails and requires.

"The agency's recommendation to conscripts is this: join the military and it will surely heal you, a thorough health audit will be conducted there,“ he said.

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