Lankford, Marshall, Cruz, Tuberville Want to Prohibit Dishonorable Discharge for Unvaccinated Service members
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford, joined Senators Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) in introducing the COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act to prohibit the Department of Defense (DOD) from giving service members a dishonorable discharge for choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The House Armed Services Committee recently passed similar language led by Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) in an amendment to the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation comes on the heels of President Biden mandating millions of Americans—including service members—to get vaccinated and the DOD issuing guidance stating that soldiers who refuse the vaccine will face “administrative or non-judicial punishment [under UCMJ] – to include relief of duties or discharge.”
Yesterday, Lankford demanded Biden reverse his policy on vaccine mandates and asked specific questions on protections for employees who request religious and medical accommodations as well as on the impact of employees with natural immunity. Lankford is calling on the Department of Defense to not force service members to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and serving in our nation’s military when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“When America shut down last year, our military personnel continued to serve us at home and abroad,” said Lankford. “Now, Biden wants to remove service members who have already recovered from COVID, but will not also take the vaccine, or have a medical, religious or personal reason not to take the vaccine. Our men and women in uniform have fought to protect the freedoms we enjoy, and it’s right for us to protect their freedom now to choose whether or not to get the vaccine. President Biden should not give our military members a ‘less than honorable’ or ‘dishonorable’ discharge from the military for a conscious objection to a vaccine after they have risked their lives for our country. ”
“As a physician and veteran who is confident that the vaccine has saved countless lives, I believe vaccinating our servicemembers 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,” said Marshall. “Servicemembers 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.”
“It’s an insult to our servicemen and women who have served with honor to dishonorably discharge them for refusing the COVID vaccine. It is the same way we dishonorably discharge those convicted of serious crimes such as treason, desertion, sexual assault, and murder. Forcing all service members, including pregnant women and those who have already had COVID-19, to receive the vaccine is just one more example of President Biden and his administration putting politics ahead of science. I am proud to join Sen. Marshall on this crucial bill to ensure the proper steps are taken by the military chain of command in response to those seeking exemptions from this vaccine,” said Cruz.
“The brave men and women of our military who make the personal medical decision to not to take the COVID-19 vaccine should not receive anything other than an honorable discharge. I was proud to get this legislation included as an amendment to the NDAA in the House and am grateful to Senator Marshall for his leadership in the Senate,” said Green.
Dishonorably discharged US service members surrender the following rights and benefits:
- Ownership of any sort of firearm or ammunition
- Access to the GI Bill for further education
- VA home loans
- VA medical benefits
- Military Funeral Honors
- Re-enlistment in another military branch