U.S. Army Announces Plans to Immediately Discharge Soldiers Who Refuse COVID Vaccine

by Clayton Edwards

Recently, the US Army announced that it would begin proceedings to discharge those who refused the COVID-19 vaccine. Reports state that they’re doing so in a bid to keep US Army soldiers and personnel healthy and limit the spread of the virus among the ranks. This comes after the Pentagon made vaccination against the novel coronavirus mandatory for military members in August of 2021.

According to the US Army website, Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth sent out a directive stating that all commanders are to begin proceedings to discharge any soldiers who refused the COVID vaccine. About this, Wormuth said, “Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”

Secretary Wormuth’s directive affects soldiers at all levels of enlistment. Active-duty soldiers, active duty Army Reservists, and cadets will face discharge if they refuse the vaccine. However, those who are close to retirement, planning to go on transition leave, or otherwise exit the Army before July 1 of this year will receive a temporary exemption.

What Happens to Army Personnel Discharged for Refusing the COVID Vaccine?

According to the directive, those discharged from the Army for refusing the vaccine could still receive an Honorable or General discharge. This is true, “unless additional misconduct warrants separation with an Other than Honorable characterization of service.”

However, those who fall under this directive will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay. In fact, they may have to pay back any “unearned special or incentive pay.”

Those who are currently waiting on a ruling for a vaccine exemption are temporarily exempt. If their exemption is denied, they have two choices. They can get their first shot within seven days or submit an appeal to the final appeal authority. If that appeal is denied, though, they will have seven days to comply with the vaccination directive. However, commanders can adjust that timeline based on vaccine supplies.

New Directive is the Latest Bid to Encourage Vaccination

The US Army has not discharged anyone solely for refusing the vaccine yet. However, they have meted out other disciplinary action. Since January 26th, “Army commanders have relieved a total of six regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders,” but refusing the vaccine was only part of the reason. Additionally, commanders have issued over 3,000 “general officer written reprimands” to soldiers who refused the vaccine.

Currently, 97% of all active Army soldiers have received at least one dose of the vaccine. At the same time, 83% of those in the Army Reserve have received at least one dose of the vaccine. As of January, the Army had granted 6 permanent medical exemptions and 0 exemptions based on religion.