US Army soldiers who refuse COVID-19 vaccination will be discharged, the military branch announced Wednesday, according to NPR.
According to the statement, the Army said it will “immediately begin separating Soldiers from the service” who refuse to be vaccinated or who don’t have an approved or pending request for exemption from COVID-19 vaccination.
“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said. “Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”
Under a directive issued by Wormuth, commanders are “to initiate involuntary administrative separation proceedings against any Soldier who has refused the COVID-19 vaccination order and does not have an approved or pending exemption request.” The vaccination order applies to regular Army Soldiers, reserve-component Soldiers serving on Title 10 active-duty, and cadets.
Discharged unvaccinated soldiers “will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay” and may have to return any unearned special or incentive pay, the Army said.
Army Directive 2022-02 details how Army commanders are to proceed with separation proceedings and requires the separation actions be processed as “expeditiously as possible.” Leaders will “continue to counsel all unvaccinated individuals on the health benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.”
As an exception, soldiers who will complete separation or retirement, or begin transition leave, on or before July 1, 2022, will be granted a temporary exemption and will be permitted to complete the separation or retirement process.
The “least favorable characterization” of service that may be issued is “General (Under Honorable Conditions), unless additional misconduct warrants separation with an Other than Honorable characterization of service,” per the statement.
Soldiers who receive denials of medical exemption or religious accommodation requests will have seven calendar days to begin a COVID-19 vaccination regime, submit an appeal to the final appeal authority, or face separation proceedings:
96 percent of active troops are fully vaccinated while 3,350 soldiers have refused to get the jab, according to the Army’s statistics updating the service branch’s COVID-19 vaccination rates and exemption requests as of Jan. 26.
5,870 soldiers have received temporary exemptions by that date. Petitioners seeking a medical exemption or religious accommodations are temporarily exempt from the vaccination requirement while those requests are under review.
Army commanders have relieved a total of six Regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to Soldiers for refusing the vaccination order, the late January press release adds.