WASHINGTON, D.C. – Republican senators, reacting to President Joe Biden’s recent mandate that all members of the U.S. military be vaccinated against COVID-19 or they would be relieved of their duties, are moving to establish protections for service members from being potentially dishonorably discharged if they refuse the jab.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has mandated COVID-19 vaccines for all U.S. military, with the Pentagon declaring it a lawful order. But reports indicate that Biden may be considering having the Pentagon issue dishonorable discharges for those members of the military that do not comply with the vaccine mandate.
This news has led U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) and several other GOP members last week to draft the COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act, which is slated to be including in the House of Representatives’ upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.
“To have a dishonorable discharge will take away your second amendment it’s going to keep you from accessing the educational opportunities the military affords as well as access to the VA for your healthcare. So this is a big, big deal if you are in the military right now,” Marshall said. ““There is no question about it: American heroes should not be treated as felons because of their personal medical choices.”
If adopted, Marshall’s legislation would “bar dishonorable discharges for not getting the vaccine but the White House said that ‘would 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.’”
However, the legislation would not entirely protect a military member from reprisals altogether; their dismissal from the service could still be carried out, but only in the form of an honorable discharge, which would keep their access to post-military government programs intact.
“[A] member of an Armed Force under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of a military department subject to discharge on the basis of the member choosing not to receive the COVID–19 vaccine may only receive an honorable discharge,” the bill reads.
In addition to Marshall, Republican Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and James Lankford (OK) also backed the bill.
“It’s an insult to our servicemen and women who have served with honor to dishonorably discharge them for refusing the COVID vaccine,” Cruz said. “It is the same way we dishonorably discharge those convicted of serious crimes such as treason, desertion, sexual assault, and murder.”