WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (both R-Idaho), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and 10 of their colleagues introduced the Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act of 2023. The legislation builds off of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which included language to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the Department of Defense and required a report on how DOD adjudicated service member’s requests for an exemption from the mandate on religious and other grounds.
The AMERICANS Act includes measures not incorporated into the NDAA, including a requirement that the Secretary of Defense offer reinstatement to service members who were fired over the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“America’s brave service members were given an unfair, unjust ultimatum when U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin instituted a vaccine mandate. While few service members received religious and health exemptions, most were discharged, and denied GI eligibility,” said Risch. “Thankfully this vaccine mandate was rescinded, but Congress must right the wrongs of the Biden Administration’s initial mandate. Through the AMERICANS Act, the Secretary of Defense is prohibited from replacing this initial mandate with another and it requires the reinstatement or restoration of rank for any service member separated or demoted due solely for vaccine status.”
“While the DOD ending their vaccine mandate for service members is a welcome first step, we must continue to push for the repeal of all related penalties and forced separations previously imposed on our women and men of our Armed Forces,” said Crapo.
“Our military continues to feel the effects of the Biden administration’s reckless, misguided, and now-prohibited vaccine mandates. I’m glad that we were able to remove the COVID-19 vaccine mandate last Congress, but there is more work to do,” said Cruz. “The AMERICANS Act would correct the wrongs done to unvaccinated service members who were discharged for exercising their conscience.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
The AMERICANS Act would:
- Prohibit the Secretary of Defense from issuing any replacement COVID-19 vaccine mandate without Congressional approval; and
- Require the Department of Defense to:
- Reinstate any service member separated solely for COVID-19 vaccine status who wants to return to service, crediting the service member with the time of involuntary separation for retirement pay calculations;
- Restore the rank of any service member demoted solely for COVID-19 vaccine status, compensating the service member for any pay and benefits lost due to that demotion;
- Adjust to “honorable” any “general” discharge given to a service member solely due to COVID-19 vaccine status;
- Expunge from a service members’ record any adverse action based solely on COVID-19 vaccine status, regardless of whether the service member previously sought an accommodation;
- Make every effort to retain service members not vaccinated against COVID-19, providing them with professional development, promotion, and leadership opportunities equal to that of their peers; and
- Provide a COVID-19 vaccine exemption process for service members with natural immunity, a relevant underlying health condition, or a sincerely held religious belief inconsistent with being vaccinated.
Read the bill here .
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