GOP Senators author bill to reinstate military members discharged for COVID vaccine refusal

by Jacob Fuller

Trey Paul, FISM News 

Any service member who was forced out of the military because they refused a COVID-19 vaccine could be reinstated if the “Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act” of 2023 is passed.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is one of nineteen Republican senators who introduced the new bill which would require the U.S. Department of Defense to offer reinstatement to service members who were fired over the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In January, FISM News reported that the Pentagon officially ended the vaccine mandate for all U.S. military forces, but didn’t provide a path back to active duty for the more than 8,400 troops who were wrongfully terminated for refusing the vaccine.

“Our military continues to feel the effects of the Biden administration’s reckless, misguided, and now-prohibited vaccine mandates,” Sen. Cruz said. “I’m glad that we were able to remove the COVID-19 vaccine mandate last Congress, but there is more work to do. The AMERICANS Act would correct the wrongs done to unvaccinated service members who were discharged for exercising their conscience.”

In addition to reinstating any service member who was separated solely for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine, the AMERICANS Act would credit that service member with the time of involuntary separation for retirement pay calculations.

The bill would also restore that service member’s rank and would effectively stop the Secretary of Defense from issuing a replacement COVID-19 vaccine mandate without Congressional approval.

Since last year, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been calling for the reinstatement of service members who were kicked out of the military. In September he tweeted: “Biden now says ‘the pandemic is over’ as he’s kicking tens of thousands of healthy soldiers out of the military with his COVID vaccine mandate. These soldiers should be reinstated immediately.”

The AMERICANS Act would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide a COVID-19 vaccine exemption process for members of the military “with natural immunity, a relevant underlying health condition, or a sincerely held religious belief inconsistent with being vaccinated.”

“The military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate was disastrous for military readiness and needlessly destroyed the lives and careers of thousands of brave service members. Our brave men and women in uniform put their lives on the line to protect this great country, and the fact that their sincere religious concerns were not handled with fairness and impartiality is unacceptable. We must right these wrongs. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in introducing the AMERICANS Act to ensure this complete government overreach will never happen again,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina).

Mike Berry, director of Military Affairs and Senior Counsel, echoed a similar sentiment.

“Congress’s repeal of the DOD Covid vaccine mandate was a needed first step, but the Pentagon continues to exploit loopholes to relentlessly punish current service members who have religious objections to the vaccine. The AMERICANS Act will ensure our brave service members enjoy the same Constitutionally assured religious freedom they’ve sworn to protect. It is an important next step that will help America maintain a strong, ready, and capable military,” he said.

FISM News reported that attorneys general in 22 states formed a coalition to support the religious liberties of Navy servicemembers attempting to receive exemptions to President Biden’s vaccine mandate on members of the U.S. military.

Senator Cruz went as far as to accuse President Biden of using the military’s vaccine mandate to purge conservatives from the military. “I believe they’re doing this as an effort to purge from the military conservatives, purge from the military people who don’t agree with their political agenda,” he said.

The AMERICANS Act builds off of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023. Republican Congressman Dan Bishop of North Carolina is leading a companion bill in the House.