Latest branch of US military initiates involuntary discharge of soldiers who refuse COVID-19 vaccination

The U.S. military announced Feb. 2 that it would immediately begin separating service soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Under a directive issued by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, commanders were to initiate involuntary administrative separation proceedings against any soldier who refused a COVID-19 vaccination order or who did not have a Exemption request approved or pending. The order applied to regular army soldiers, reserve soldiers serving on Title 10 active duty, and cadets.

“The Army’s readiness depends on soldiers who are ready to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. “Unvaccinated soldiers pose a risk to the force and compromise readiness. We will initiate an involuntary separation process for soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and who are not awaiting a final decision on an exemption. »

Army Directive 2022-02 detailed how Army commanders were to conduct separation procedures and required them to process such separation actions as quickly as possible. Service members separated due to COVID-19 vaccination order denial would not be eligible for involuntary severance and may be subject to clawback of any unearned special or incentive compensation.

On an exceptional basis, soldiers who complete their separation or retirement, or begin transition leave, no later than July 1, 2022, will be granted a temporary exemption and be permitted to complete their separation or retirement.

The least favorable characterization of service that can be issued is general (on honorable terms), unless additional misconduct warrants separation with a characterization of service other than honorable.

Unvaccinated soldiers who have applied for a medical exemption or religious accommodations have been temporarily exempted from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement while their applications are pending.

Soldiers who received denial of their medical exemption or religious accommodation requests had seven calendar days from the denial to do any of the following or face separation proceedings:

-Start a COVID-19 vaccination regimen. If a soldier indicates an intention to begin the vaccination schedule, commanders may use their discretion to adjust the schedule based on local COVID-19 vaccination supplies.

-Submit an appeal to the final appeal authority. If a final appeal is denied, the soldier will have seven calendar days from notification of the denial to begin the COVID-19 vaccination regimen.

Commanders ensured that all unvaccinated service members complied with COVID-19 screening and testing requirements and applicable safety standards. Army chiefs have said they will continue to advise all unvaccinated people on the health benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

The military has yet to unwittingly separate soldiers solely for refusing a legal order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As of January 26, army commanders relieved a total of six regular army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,073 written reprimands from general officers to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order. .

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