The United States Army announced this week that their soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19 will soon be discharged. The Army indicated that it will immediately begin separating soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated or they don’t have the approval of a pending request for exemption.
Christine Wormuth, the Secretary of the Army, said, “Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars. Unvaccinated Soldiers present a risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”
These soldiers who are discharged will not be able to receive involuntary separation pay. It is likely that they will also have to return any unearned special or incentive pay, according to a statement from the Army.
The Army is the last branch of the military to reveal a discharge policy for those who refuse vaccines. The Navy, Air Force, and Marines have already discharged active-duty soldiers or entry-level personnel at boot camps because they would not take the vaccine shot.
At the end of January, it was reported that 96% of active troops have been fully vaccinated. But 3,350 soldiers have refused to get the vaccine and almost 5,900 have been given temporary exemptions. Some soldiers have asked for medical or religious exemptions and they will not be separated until their requests have been reviewed. The reviews mandate counseling with medical personnel and chaplains as well as senior commanders.
There have already been 709 medical exemptions requested, but only 6 have been approved and 656 have been disapproved. There have been 2,910 permanent religious exemptions requested, and zero have been approved.
Military soldiers who have their medical or religious exemption requests denied will only have seven days from the denial to either begin the vaccination process or submit an appeal to the final appeal authority. If that final appeal is denied, the soldier will have seven days to begin the vaccination process or be discharged.
The Pentagon began to require members of all of the military branches to get vaccinated last summer. Army commanders have already relieved 6 Regular Army leaders. That includes two who were battalion commanders. They have also issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to individual soldiers. This is for refusing to abide by the vaccination order. This means that these soldiers are already in the disciplinary process and they will likely be the first to be discharged for misconduct. Those who are eligible to retire are being asked to do so before July 1st.
There have been 650 Marines, airmen, and sailors who have been separated from the military according to information released this week by the services. We’re losing good men and women simply because of these mandates.
Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary said in a memo to employees, “To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel — as well as contractor personnel — to get vaccinated now and for military service members to not wait for the mandate.” What he fails to say is that there are plenty of healthy, vaccinated people who get COVID, too.
President Joe Biden echoed this same sentiment saying that the vaccines would enable service members to stay healthy and protect their families. It would also ensure that our military force is ready to serve anywhere in the world.
The discharged soldiers will likely receive a general discharge under honorable conditions. But that will impact their post-service benefits. They will be ineligible for the GI Bill, but they will be eligible for disability pay. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth will decide on a “case-by-case” basis if any exceptions are appropriate.
These men and women fight for freedom in our country, they are heroes who sacrifice daily. And they are now subject to rigid regulations without a clear pathway for medical or religious exemption.