On Monday, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asking for clarification on the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and an end to punishments for unvaccinated service members.
Army punishing soldiers for seeking religious exception to vaxx mandate: ‘Technique of coercion’ https://t.co/rCm3P5fbAi
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Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) signed the letter as the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.
“Pandemic restrictions have been lifted across the country and state and federal courts have enjoined enforcement of employment-based vaccine mandates,” Rogers wrote with his Republican colleagues. “It is our understanding that members of the Armed Forces are now one of the only few groups in the Executive Branch still subject to termination for failure to take the vaccine.”
The letter comes after President Joe Biden declared that “the pandemic is over.” There are still 48 pending court cases regarding the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
In the letter, the GOP members specifically requested for Austin to explain how the Pentagon plans to enforce the vaccine mandate in the wake of Biden’s comments.
“We would appreciate a timely response to our request considering we are finalizing the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act,” the Republicans wrote in the letter.
The Department of Defense’s inspector general wrote a memo in June, questioning the validity of the military’s process for considering exception requests based on religious reasons.
In the memo, the inspector general pointed to “a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies.”
“[The] volume and rate at which decisions were made to deny requests is concerning,” the inspector general added.
Without obtaining an exception based on religious reasons, unvaccinated service members face various punishments, said an Army spokesperson.
“Soldiers who refuse the order to be vaccinated without an approved or pending exemption request are subject to certain adverse administrative actions, including flags, bars to continued service, and official reprimands,” the spokesperson explained.
According to Army statistics, of the 4,664 religious exemption requests, only 44 were approved.