Biden Admin 'Strongly Opposes' Amendment Protecting Discharge Status of Troops Who Refuse Vaccine

Posted: Sep 24, 2021 8:10 AM
Biden Admin 'Strongly Opposes' Amendment Protecting Discharge Status of Troops Who Refuse Vaccine

Source: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool

The Biden administration said it “strongly opposes” an amendment to the defense budget that prevents the Pentagon from dishonorably discharging service members who do not want to receive the Covid vaccine. 

Last month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin mandated vaccines for all service members, saying “mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself.” The move came after the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine. 

The Office of Management and Budget said if the amendment were to be implemented, it would "detract from readiness and limit a commander's options for enforcing good order and discipline when a Service member fails to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccination."

Rep. Mark Green, a physician, introduced the amendment to protect the discharge status for active-duty troops who refuse the jab, which the House Armed Services Committee passed with support from every Democrat on the Committee. 

"I am disgusted that the Biden administration is trying to gut my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that prevents anything but an honorable discharge for servicemembers who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine," Green said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. "Every Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee agreed to my amendment. It is tragic and horrifying that the Biden administration can’t respect the rights of our military that every House Democrat on the Committee voted for.”

In a statement after its passage earlier this month, Green explained the need for the amendment:

“As a physician, I’ve weighed the pros and cons of the COVID-19 vaccine and have chosen to get the shot. As a former Army officer, I also understand the need to vaccinate servicemembers on deployment against a highly infectious virus. For years, the military has possessed the authority to compel servicemembers to be vaccinated. However, those vaccines underwent years of research with ample longitudinal safety data. In the case of the coronavirus vaccine, that longitudinal data is not yet possible. Therefore, I believe servicemembers who make the personal medical decision to refuse the vaccine, and are subsequently separated from the service for their refusal, should not receive anything other than an honorable discharge for refusing to take the vaccine. Period.”

Dishonorably discharged service members lose the right to own firearms and have access to education, medical and home loan benefits.

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Roger Marshall, (R-Kan.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) have also introduced legislation to protect unvaccinated service members from being dishonorably discharged. The bill's language is similar to Green's amendment. 

"As a physician and veteran who is confident that the vaccine has saved countless lives, I believe vaccinating our service members against COVID-19 is an important effort; however, whether or not to receive the vaccine should be a personal choice between an individual and their doctor," Marshall said. "Service members who refuse to get vaccinated, and are subsequently separated from the service, should not receive anything other than an honorable discharge. There is no question about it: American heroes should not be treated as felons because of their personal medical choices."

According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, receiving a dishonorable discharge for refusing vaccination would be unlikely. 

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