The Pentagon on Tuesday shut down speculation it’s considering back pay for service members it discharged for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, distancing itself from an already politically hazardous issue that has become even more prejudicial for the military with Republican control of Congress.
“Right now, we are not pursuing, as a matter of policy, back pay for those who refused the vaccine,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told reporters in response to one of several questions about the issue.
“At the time those orders were refused, it was a lawful order,” Ryder added.
He spoke a week after the Pentagon formally rescinded the policy that required all troops to receive the shots with very few exemptions, in line with new legislation signed into law on Dec. 23 that forced the change. Politico had reported on Friday, citing an unnamed spokesperson, that the department was considering issuing back pay at that time. Ryder on Tuesday distanced the Pentagon from any such speculation. . . . (read more at US News)
Lawmakers are pressuring the Pentagon to provide back pay for the roughly 8,400 U.S. troops fired after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, after the department rolled back its mandate and signaled it is “exploring” how to reinstate compensation and other benefits.
Department of Defense spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz told Fox News Digital that on the issue of back pay for involuntarily terminated troops, “the Department is still exploring this and will provide its views on legislation of this nature at the appropriate time and through the appropriate process.”
But Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, told Fox News Digital that Congress is already planning to add language into the next NDAA to provide back pay for terminated troops if the Pentagon does not do so.
“If the Pentagon does not provide backpay and restore full benefits for those who were discharged and request to be reinstated, we in Congress must act by adding language in the next NDAA to do so. We have an obligation to these service members,” Waltz said.
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said back pay should have been included in the FY 23 NDAA, and pledged to keep pushing the Biden administration for this result.
“This should have been done on the Senate Floor during the consideration of NDAA, but 54 of my colleagues opposed doing so. I call on DoD, Sec. Austin, and Pres. Biden to move on providing back pay at once,” he said.
A Senate aide told Fox News Digital that Marshall is evaluating possible responses to the Pentagon dragging its feet on a timeline for providing back pay.
“Senator Cruz and I have legislation to ensure our brave men and women that were fired due to Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate receive backpay and benefits,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told Fox News Digital. “At the Senate Armed Services committee I will continue pushing our military leaders to focus on threats posed by Communist China, Iran, Russia and North Korea — not woke mandates.” . . . (read more)