We detailed Thursday that many thousands of active duty Air Force personnel have still remained unvaccinated even after the Tuesday deadline has come and gone for the Air Force’s mandate to receive both Covid jabs, which was the earliest set deadline among US military branches.
Already some branches like the Navy and Marines have clarified that members who refuse the mandate will be relieved of duty and separated from the service. After Tuesday’s deadline at least 8,500 active-duty members of the Air Force and Space Force are in non-compliance and now risk being kicked out. However, there’s no indication as of yet that commanders have booted anyone at this early point.
But now the Department of Defense (DoD) taking its threat of punitive action a big step further, saying unvaccinated service members could see their veterans’ benefits taken away. This would be based on personnel receiving other-than-honorable discharge, which will reportedly be determined by a base’s local command.
The Pentagon is saying such a drastic penalty, which would result in individual veterans potentially losing everything from education benefits such as the GI Bill, to eligibility for a veterans home lone, is necessary as lack of vaccination impacts “readiness”.
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A new report in the Military Times quotes Gil Cisneros, Department of Defense (DoD) undersecretary for personnel, who told Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, “We see the vaccines as a readiness issue. Any discharge decision is up to the individual service as to how they proceed with that.”
The report describes that “Individuals with honorable discharges will be eligible for things like GI Bill benefits, VA home loans and transition assistance programs. Individuals with other-than-honorable discharges are still guaranteed mental health care services through VA, but may be blocked from most other benefits.”
An honorable discharge would guarantee all of these benefits, while anything less throws them into doubt in terms of eligibility. Other branches have their deadlines for all personnel to get vaccinated coming in the next weeks.
As for the Air Force, what might happen next is a mass expulsion of non-vaxxed service members. There was no word on what career fields the un-vaxxed were in. If some are pilots, especially ones operating stealth jets and bombers, the overreaching vaxx mandate could much more directly jeopardize America’s readiness for war.