Discharged Unvaccinated Service Members Could Receive Back Pay

When the Department of Defense removed its requirement that members of the military must receive the COVID-19 vaccine, opponents of the mandate celebrated a partial victory.

At the same time, critics of the military’s earlier position on the vaccine were concerned about the thousands of service members who had already been discharged for refusing to take the shot.

The National Defense Authorization Act passed late last year removed a vaccine mandate and could pave the way for those discharged members to resume active service. That step did not go far enough for those who called for the Pentagon to retroactively pay the discharged members for the time that they were out of uniform.

In a statement on Friday, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz confirmed that the Defense Department is considering such a move.

He advised that veterans are free to “apply at any time to the appropriate Discharge Review Board or Board for Correction for Military/Naval Records if they believe that there is an error or injustice in their records — to include those that were separated by the vaccine mandate.”

Dietz went on to address the issue of back pay, confirming that the Pentagon “is still exploring this and will provide its views on the legislation of this nature at the appropriate time and through the appropriate process.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence added his name to the list of Republicans who believe these discharged service members should receive compensation.

In a recent interview with The Hill, he described the vaccine mandate as “unconscionable” and applauded Congress for passing a defense budget that eliminated it.

“I think now that Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin has implemented what Congress passed into law, lifting the vaccine mandate on members of our armed forces, now I’m calling on the Biden administration to reinstate every man and woman that was discharged from our armed forces because they refused to take the vaccine, and give them 100% back pay for the time after they were discharged,” Pence added.

While White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre denounced the mandate repeal as a “mistake” last month, proponents of the move say it is not only necessary to protect the freedom of men and women in uniform, but also to ensure a robust military.

In a letter shortly before the NDAA was approved, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) wrote: “The United States simply cannot afford to discharge our brave men and women in uniform and lose the investments we have made into each and every one of them due to an inept bureaucratic policy.”