Megan Udinski, FISM News
Republicans introduced the COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act on Tuesday in response to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) guidance to dishonorably or “not with honors” discharge service members who decline vaccination.
On Aug. 24, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin released a memo mandating vaccines for all active duty service members and those in Ready Reserve.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated that medical and religious exemptions would be available, but service members will have to provide validation in order to be considered eligible. In order to qualify for a religious exemption in the Army soldiers will be required to meet with a chaplain, and for a medical exemption service members will be required to have a note from a physician and follow up with their chain of command. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 will not be considered exempt from the mandate.
Those who have approved exemptions will be required to undergo weekly testing to ensure a negative test. According to the military mandate anyone who does not have an approved exemption and continues to “fail to comply” by not getting a vaccine will face” relief of duties or discharge.”
If a soldier is dishonorably discharged he or she no longer has the right to own a firearm, loses access to the GI Bill for further education, becomes ineligible for VA home loans or medical benefits, cannot receive military funeral honors, and may not re-enlist in another military branch.
Veteran and U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) introduced the bill along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala). In a press release, Sen. Marshall commented that no veteran should be treated as a felon for choosing to not get the vaccine:
As a physician and veteran…I believe vaccinating our service members against COVID-19 is an important effort; however, whether or not to receive the vaccine should be a personal choice between an individual and their doctor,… American heroes should not be treated as felons because of their personal medical choices.
Sen. Cruz blasted president Biden for putting politics ahead of science:
[Its] the same way we dishonorably discharge those convicted of serious crimes such as treason, desertion, sexual assault, and murder. Forcing all service members, including pregnant women and those who have already had COVID-19, to receive the vaccine is just one more example of President Biden and his administration putting politics ahead of science.
Sen. Lankford reminded everyone that when the U.S. shut down in March 2020, the military personnel continued to serve America at home and abroad stating, “Our men and women in uniform have fought to protect the freedoms we enjoy, and it’s right for us to protect their freedom now to choose whether or not to get the vaccine.”
The dates active duty personnel must be vaccinated for the different military departments are Nov. 2 for the Air Force, Nov. 28 for the Navy and Marine Corps., and Dec. 15 for the Army. Service members must choose one of the FDA EUA authorized or World Health Organization Emergency Use listed vaccines and are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final shot.
Rep. Mark Green has led similar legislation through the House of Representatives in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.