Over the course of the pandemic, significantly more than 8,000 troops from the United States military were involuntarily discharged because they refused to take the experimental COVID vaccines. Others who applied for religious or medical exemptions were not separated, but received letters of reprimand in their records and were barred from certain assignments. One of the bigger wins that the GOP chalked up in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was the repeal of the vaccination mandate, which was formally canceled by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday. But what happens now to all of the people who were separated? Calls have come from members of Congress to reinstate the troops that wish to return and to provide all of those who were discharged with back pay. There hasn’t been any final decision from the Pentagon yet, but a spokesperson said this week that they are “considering it.” (Politico)
The Pentagon is considering providing back pay to former service members who were discharged for refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccine, now that the mandate has been repealed, according to a spokesperson.
The Defense Department formally rescinded the mandate in a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday, after lawmakers directed the Pentagon to do so in the annual defense policy bill that passed into law in December. The military had already stopped discharging troops who refused the shot.
Austin’s memo opened the door to reinstating troops who believe they were wrongfully let go, stipulating that service members and veterans may apply to correct their records.
From the beginning of the entire vaccine mandate debacle, I’ve been wondering what would happen when it inevitably ended. That was of particular concern for our troops, especially during a time when the services have been struggling to meet their recruiting goals. It doesn’t seem possible that everyone in charge can simply shuffle their feet with embarrassed looks on their faces and pretend all of this never happened.
Many of the dismissed troops reportedly received “Other Than Honorable” discharges, which isn’t as damaging as a Bad Conduct or Dishonorable discharge, but it’s still far less desirable than an Honorable discharge. Some also had letters of reprimand put on their records. All of these things can impact their ability to find a new job in the civilian world and prevent them from receiving a security clearance, further limiting their job options. All of those negative marks on their records should be removed and their discharges need to be upgraded to Honorable status.
Whether the troops return to service or not, they should receive back pay for the time between their discharge and the cancellation of the mandate. It’s just the right thing to do. And making it known that the Pentagon is setting the record straight in such a fashion might increase confidence in the military among young people who are considering enlisting.
Once this is all straightened out, perhaps Congress can do something to address all of the “wokeness, weakness, and sickness” that has been helping to sink our recruiting numbers. I doubt that many young people who are both physically and mentally prepared and leaning toward enlisting are signing up to join a military where they will be constantly scolded about white supremacy or transgender identity. Particularly for female recruits, the military still records far too many instances of sexual assault and harassment. These women in uniform don’t need to have a man showing up in the showers with them.
Repealing the mandate was the right thing to do, even if Joe Biden and Lloyd Austin were still fighting it to the very end. Congress made a good start with that decision, but more work remains if we’re going to get America’s armed services back to peak performance levels. Let’s hope they continue to make progress.