GOP Senator Rand Paul has joined others in promoting an updated bill to reinstate military service members who were previously fired for refusing to comply with the Biden Administration’s COVID vaccine mandate.
The legislation, named the Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act of 2023, includes a requirement that the Secretary of Defense offer reinstatement to active members who were removed from duty for not taking the shots.
Senator Paul noted “The COVID-19 vaccine mandate has ruined the livelihoods of men and women who have honorably served our country. This inept bureaucratic policy should have never been imposed, and while it has since been rolled back, we still have service members who have not been rehired, promoted, or received back pay and benefits.”
He continued, “The AMERICANS Act will address these issues and others that the Biden administration has failed to consider at the expense of service members’ lives and our nation’s national security interests.”
Senator Ted Cruz, who is also co-sponsoring the bill added “Our military continues to feel the effects of the Biden administration’s reckless, misguided, and now-prohibited vaccine mandates.”
“I’m glad that we were able to remove the COVID-19 vaccine mandate last Congress, but there is more work to do,” Cruz urged, adding “The AMERICANS Act would correct the wrongs done to unvaccinated service members who were discharged for exercising their conscience.”
As they noted in their statements, the Senators were previously successful in getting the mandate scrapped by threatening to block the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Representative Dan Bishop, who has introduced a companion bill in the House, also noted that “While last year’s NDAA directed that SECDEF rescind the DOD’s authoritarian COVID vaccine mandate, it didn’t prohibit the DOD from issuing a similar mandate in the future.”
He continued, “The bill also didn’t provide any meaningful remedies for service members who were kicked out due to the mandate. This is completely unacceptable. Sen. Cruz and my bill, the AMERICANS Act, will close these glaring loopholes and bring justice to military members who were purged by Secretary Austin’s egregious vaccine mandate.”
Specifically, the legislation will require the Department of Defense to:
- 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;
- 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;
- Adjust to “honorable” any “general” discharge given to a service member solely due to COVID-19 vaccine status;
- 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;
- 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
- 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.
The Military Times estimates that more than 3,400 troops were “involuntarily separated from the service” due to non-compliance with the vaccine mandate.
Despite Republican attempts to stop mandatory vaccines for active duty personnel, and to uphold exemption rights, the Biden administration has continually pushed for dishonourable discharges and even court martialing for troops who disobey orders to get the shots.
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