At present serving Airmen and Guardians who sought exemptions from the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate will see these actions reversed and information erased, a brand new memo from Secretary of the Air Power Frank Kendall states.
“The DAF will take away hostile info from information of these at present serving service members who sought an exemption on non secular, administrative, or medical grounds and who acquired hostile actions solely as a result of their refusal to take the vaccine,” the Air Power acknowledged in a Feb. 24 press launch.
Letters of admonishment, counseling, or reprimand will likely be rescinded; nonjudicial punishments “issued solely for vaccine refusal” will likely be put aside; referral efficiency studies issued “solely for vaccine refusal after requesting an exemption will likely be faraway from personnel information;” hostile actions associated to vaccine refusal detailed in promotion information will likely be “corrected” or redacted; and involuntary discharge proceedings associated to vaccine refusal that aren’t but full will likely be terminated.
It’s unclear what number of service members stay Lively Obligation who’re affected by the latest memo. Neither is it clear how lengthy it should take for information to be corrected. The Air Power stated service members nonetheless on Lively, Guard, or Reserve standing won’t must provoke any actions for his or her information to be up to date.
“Commanders in any respect ranges should be sure that related steerage derived from the mandate is rescinded,” Kendall wrote.
As of October 2022, the latest information out there, 97.5 % of the Division’s Complete Power of 497,000 Lively Obligation Air Power and Area Power, Air Guard, and Air Power Reserve members—had been vaccinated towards COVID-19. That information indicated practically 99 % of Lively-duty personnel had been vaccinated.
Whereas Kendall’s memo dispenses with Air Power’s punitive actions for many who sought exemptions, COVID-19 vaccination standing can nonetheless affect assignments or deployments for them, particularly if it presents a problem with one other nation’s legal guidelines.
The Division of Protection formally rescinded its vaccine mandate Jan. 10. On the identical day Kendall launched his memo, Secretary of Protection Lloyd J. Austin III issued a memo directing all army departments to problem new steerage to adjust to the brand new DOD coverage by Mar. 17.
The Division of the Air Power is canceling all non secular lodging requests associated to COVID-19 vaccines, as the difficulty is now moot. If a service member has different non secular lodging requests associated to different mandated vaccines, they have to resubmit the request, the Air Power stated.
Not a Clear Sweep
Nonetheless, the slate just isn’t fully cleaned for affected service members if there are different points on their report. Kendall’s memo states that the brand new coverage reversals are solely in response to actions taken for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. If a nonjudicial punishment was issued partially for refusing the vaccine and partly for another transgression, elements unrelated to the vaccine will likely be reassessed. If a efficiency report addresses misconduct aside from a refusal to get vaccinated, the report will redact solely the portion associated to the COVID-19 vaccine and be reevaluated.
“On the time the actions had been taken, they had been applicable, equitable, and in accordance with legitimate lawful coverage in impact on the time; nevertheless, removing of these actions is now applicable in some circumstances,” Kendall wrote.
In response to April 2022 Congressional testimony, the Air Power had separated 287 Airmen for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Simply shy of 98 % of these acquired normal discharges underneath honorable situations. The Area Power had not discharged anybody for refusing to get the vaccine on the time. The 287 Airmen separated represented roughly 0.05 % of all Lively, Reserve, and Guard service members. In response to plaintiffs in a category motion lawsuit towards the Division of the Air Power, there are round 10,000 unvaccinated Complete Power personnel. An unknown variety of service members left voluntarily to keep away from the vaccination requirement.
The Air Power granted the fewest honorable discharges of all companies for refusing the vaccine, which might have implications for the sorts of advantages separated Airmen can obtain. A service member that receives a normal discharge, as practically all Airmen did, can often obtain medical advantages from the VA, however they don’t have entry to G.I. Invoice academic advantages.
Kendall’s newest memo didn’t element what the Air Power plans to do with separated service members, akin to probably permitting them to reapply to return to service.
One problem that seems to be off the desk is offering again pay for any separated service member.
“We aren’t pursuing, as a matter of coverage, again pay for many who refused the vaccine,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Power Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder informed reporters in January. “On the time that these orders had been refused, it was a lawful order.”