Pentagon Officially Overturns Military Vaccine Mandate

The Department of Defense (DOD) officially scrapped the requirement that all members of the armed forces be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday.

After more than a year of legal challenges to the mandate and at least 8,400 discharges for refusing the vaccine, Congress instructed Austin to reverse course in the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“I am deeply proud of the department’s work to combat the coronavirus disease 2019,” Austin wrote in a Jan. 10, 2022 memo overturning the mandate. “We have demonstrated the ability to support and defend the nation under the most trying of circumstances.

“I hereby rescind that memorandum,” Austin wrote. He also overturned a subsequent instruction from November 2021 that reiterated the mandate for members of the National Guard and reserves. 

Experts have warned that service members who escaped discharge for refusing the vaccine still risk retaliation and could be booted anyway.

“This does nothing to address those pending discharge who did not submit a religious accommodation or who were improperly denied a religious or medical accommodation,” R. Davis Younts, an attorney representing several military members seeking religious exemptions, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Congress’ directive did not require military branches to provide compensation for those discharged or had their careers harmed by refusing the mandate. . . .

By the time the mandate was overturned, nearly every service faced a legal prohibition — usually as part of a religious liberty case — against discharging servicemembers, although they could still be blocked from deployment or other operational duties. Thousands waited in limbo as religious exemption requests were denied, and at least 8,400 have already been discharged, according to the latest data shared with the DCNF by the Department of Defense.

“Much trust and confidence in military leadership was lost as a result of the way DOD implemented the mandate,” retired Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, president of Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services, told the DCNF.

“Now is the time to turn our attention to ‘remedies’ and making those whose careers were harmed by the illegal actions implementing the vaccine mandate ‘whole’ by correcting their records and restoring them to the service of our nation, should they want to continue to serve,” Bishop said. . . . . (read more at the Daily Caller)

DOD Rescinds COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate (DOD Press Release, 10 JAN 23)

Today in a memo, Secretary Austin rescinded the Aug. 24, 2021 memorandum mandating that members of the Armed Forces under DoD authority be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the memorandum of Nov. 30, 2021, pertaining to the vaccination of National Guard and Reserve personnel.  This rescission requirement was established by the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023.

The health and readiness of the Force are crucial to the Department’s ability to defend our nation. Secretary Austin continues to encourage all Service members, civilian employees, and contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 to ensure Total Force readiness.

The full rescission memorandum can be found here.

Pentagon Rescinds COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate (National Guard Association, 11 JAN 23)
Service members are no longer under a Pentagon mandate to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a memo signed Tuesday by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. The action repeals both the Aug. 24, 2021, memo mandating personnel under Defense Department authority be vaccinated and the Nov. 30, 2021, memo pertaining to the vaccination of National Guardsmen and Reservists. The full memo is available here. . . . The memo also leaves some questions unanswered, including whether the services will allow discharged service members to be reinstated and when Army Guard soldiers barred from training for refusing the vaccine can return. . . . (read more)

Pentagon Rescinds COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate, Questions Remain for Separated Sailors (USNI News, 10 JAN 23)
Now that the mandate is rescinded, the DoD will cease any investigations into service members who were not vaccinated or requested an exemption, including religious ones, according to the memo. The department will also update records of those currently serving to remove any adverse actions against them over their failure to get vaccinated under the mandate. This includes letters of reprimand. The memo does not address whether service members who were already separated will be allowed back into the service. It does say they can petition for a change in the characterization of their discharge. . . . (read more)

Military To End Vax Mandate Now That All The Conservatives Have Been Weeded Out (Babylon Bee – satire)

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