Air Force officials unveiled a new effort Monday that will show airmen and Space Force Guardians the status of their religious and reasonable accommodations following mismanagement of records and legal action related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The new Department of the Air Force Accommodation Portal will be a central location that will allow service members to review their records and see how their accommodation requests are progressing.
The new system was seen as a necessity following an influx of requested religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate.
Previously, airmen and Guardians would have to submit their requests manually. This new portal, while not mandatory, would allow service members to follow the path of their requests and have electronic access to their records in the process.
The services have seen an exponential increase in religious accommodation requests, according to Baltrusaitis. “The portal offers a systemic automated solution to ensure our service members and civilians are assisted in the most expeditious manner going forward.”
The new accommodation portal comes amid a lawsuit, first filed by troops attached to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, that led to temporary protections for around 10,000 active-duty, Active Reserve, reserve and National Guard members of the Air Force and Space Force who requested a religious exemption from the COVID vaccine, although only those who have been denied an exemption would face immediate action. . . . (read more on Military.com)
DAF develops reasonable, religious accommodation requests appeals portal (Dept of Air Force, 11 MAY 23)
To streamline the civilian reasonable accommodation, military religious accommodation, and all accommodation appeals processes, the Department of the Air Force has created the DAF Accommodation Portal.
Airmen, Guardians and civilians, as appropriate, will be able to apply for any of these options when the DAF-AP becomes active on May 15. The portal will centralize and facilitate processes, simplifying the tracking and review of accommodations requests and appeals.
The DAF-AP has been in development since September 2022, when Jan Baltrusaitis, chief of the DAF COVID-19 Task Force, identified the need for a “one-stop shop” for Airmen and Guardians to navigate their requests more easily.
“A number of accommodation processes were fragmented and difficult for servicemembers and approving officials to navigate without a standardized and transparent system of record,” Baltrusaitis said. “The service has seen an exponential increase in religious accommodation requests, and the portal offers a systemic automated solution to ensure our servicemembers and civilians are assisted in the most expeditious manner going forward.”
With no additional cost to the service, the DAF COVID-19 Task Force created a consolidated portal for all accommodation requests using existing data platforms, available resources, and talent. Once active, the automated system will manage the current manual flow of requests between the applicants and their respective processing organizations. Additionally, it will digitally notify members at each step, including the appeals process and final decision, ensuring transparency of the entire process.