Protections for Troops Booted over COVID Vaccine Mandate Added to House Defense Bill

House Republicans moved Wednesday to protect former service members who were discharged over the military’s now-defunct COVID-19 vaccine mandate, including easing their path to reinstatement.

Troops who were discharged for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine could be reinstated at the rank held when they were separated and without the discharge affecting future career advancement under one of a series of amendments related to the vaccine mandate approved by the House Armed Services Committee. The committee was debating its version of the annual defense policy bill.

The amendments would also require discharge review boards to take up requests to

  • upgrade discharges for those booted solely over vaccine refusal;
  • mandate that the Pentagon must reach out to discharged troops about how they can apply to be reinstated;
  • exempt service academy students who weren’t commissioned because they refused the vaccine from having to pay back their taxpayer-funded tuition; and
  • direct the Pentagon to study how much it would cost to give the discharged troops back pay and a $15,000 bonus.

“This provides a fair, equitable and honorable option for our wrongly separated service members,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said of his amendment to reinstate the discharged troops.

Banks, who also sponsored two of the other COVID-19 vaccine-related amendments, argued that his proposal is imperative “especially in a time of great need as we face the greatest recruiting crisis since the establishment of the all-volunteer force.”

The five vaccine-related amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, passed largely along party lines, though a few Democrats voted with Republicans in support of the amendments.

The amendments follow Republican vows to ensure troops discharged over the vaccine mandate are reinstated after GOP lawmakers successfully fought to use last year’s NDAA to repeal the vaccine requirement. . . .  (read more on

House Republicans look to aid troops kicked out for refusing former Pentagon vaccine mandate (The Hill, 21 June 23)
Several Pentagon policies meant to protect troops penalized under the Defense Department’s since-repealed COVID-19 vaccine mandate have made it into the House Armed Services Committee’s annual defense policy bill.

The panel, which held its markup for the annual National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, adopted five separate GOP-offered amendments on how to treat service members and military academy cadets kicked out for refusing the vaccine after the mandate was put in place in August 2021.

The first amendment, offered by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), passed 32-26. It would prohibit any adverse action for troops who did not receive the vaccine and  allow those kicked out for refusing it to be reinstated without any detriment to their career.  . . . .

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