The U.S. Army announces plan to begin discharge of service members who have refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
More than 3,300 active U.S. service members are now facing discharge as the Army announced imminent plans to remove them for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
The mandate applies to all active-duty soldiers, reserves serving on active duty, and Military Academy cadets, according to an Associated Press report Wednesday.
“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight, and win our nation’s wars,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement. “Unvaccinated soldiers present a risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”
“Service members separated due to refusal of the COVID-19 vaccination order will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and may be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays,” the Army said.
There were nearly 5,900 temporary medical or religious exemptions pending review as of Jan. 26 according to an Army report last week.
“To date, Army commanders have relieved a total of six Regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to Soldiers for refusing the vaccination order,” the Army said.
This announcement comes following the discharge of all personnel who have refused COVID-19 shots in the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy.
The Army National Guard has a deadline of June 30, 2022, while the U.S. Coast Guard has issued no mandatory deadline, according to Military.com.
A recent law passed by Congress allows service members discharged for vaccine refusal to either be granted an honorable discharge or General (Under Honorable Conditions).
Such a discharge allows most benefits to be retained but excludes eligibility to GI Bill benefits.
This news comes amidst numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration related to vaccine mandates including one from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). Abbott is joined by the Governors of Alaska, Idaho, Nebraska, Mississippi, and Oklahoma in publicly stating that they will not discharge troops over the mandate so long as they are on state orders, highlighting the conflict between Guard obligations to federal and state governments.
Even where lawsuits have been won against the mandate, some service members are alleging they are being retaliated against.
The Washington Examiner reported that a group of nearly three dozen Navy SEALS who successfully sued the Department of Defense have now sought a motion to hold the Navy in contempt for disregarding the judge’s order.
Judge Reed O’Connor had stated, “there is no COVID-19 exemption to the First Amendment,” and, “there is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
In spite of that, the report includes a statement on the motion from Mike Berry, one of the lawyers representing the group of SEALS from the First Liberty Institute.
“A substantial number of them continue to experience this harassment for being unvaccinated,” Berry said. “We expect the Navy to follow the law. The Department of Defense is not above the law. And right now, they seem to be acting as if they are above the law. We expect as this case moves forward that hopefully the Navy will begin to understand that, and they will conduct themselves accordingly and stop punishing out clients because of their religious beliefs.”
One of these claims comes from an anonymous member being represented by Berry who had his travel arrangements denied. Berry explained the SEAL had the, “opportunity to attend a traumatic brain injury clinic, and he was subsequently denied that opportunity by the Navy because of his vaccination status.”
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