(Press Release) Senate Democrats blocked U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) from adding an amendment to the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act.
The amendment, which is based on Sen. Cruz and Rep. Dan Bishop’s (R-N.C.) AMERICANS Act (S. 29), would have provided remedies to military servicemembers who were involuntarily separated from the military based solely on COVID-19 vaccine status, allowing these individuals to return to military service and to adjust their discharge status from “general” to “honorable” to restore lost GI Bill and VA benefits.
The amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
About the amendment, Sen. Cruz said, “
While last year’s NDAA quite rightly repealed the vaccine mandate prospectively, problems caused by the mandate persist, including concerning recruiting, retention and readiness.
According to reports, the Biden administration dismissed over 8,400 military service members who had vaccine concerns.
DOD gave over 80 percent of these service members a ‘general discharge’ causing them to lose GI benefits and in some cases VA benefits – even though those were benefits earned through honorable service.
My amendment rights these wrongs.
It will allow service members dismissed over the vaccine mandate to seek reinstatement or a change in discharge status.
It restores lost GI and VA benefits.
According to media reports, the DOD is already contemplating all of these actions, but I believe that the Senate should lead to address these issues.”
Listen to Sen. Cruz’s full floor speech here.
In total, Sen. Cruz’s amendment would:
– Prohibit the Secretary of Defense from issuing any replacement COVID-19 vaccine mandate without Congressional approval; and
– Require the Department of Defense to:
o Reinstate any service member separated solely for COVID-19 vaccine status who wants to return to service, crediting the service member with the time of involuntary separation for retirement pay calculations;
o Restore the rank of any service member demoted solely for COVID-19 vaccine status, compensating the service member for any pay and benefits lost due to that demotion;
o Adjust to “honorable” any “general” discharge given to a service member solely due to COVID-19 vaccine status;
o Expunge from a service members’ record any adverse action based solely on COVID-19 vaccine status, regardless of whether the service member previously sought an accommodation;
o Make every effort to retain service members not vaccinated against COVID-19, providing them with professional development, promotion, and leadership opportunities equal to that of their peers; and
o Provide a COVID-19 vaccine exemption process for service members with natural immunity, a relevant underlying health condition, or a sincerely held religious belief inconsistent with being vaccinated.
Read the amendment text here.