The U.S. Army has initiated a significant outreach to nearly 2,000 former service members discharged under the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
In letters sent prior to Veteran's Day, the Army informed these individuals about the opportunity to amend their military records and rejoin the military, following the rescission of the vaccine mandate.
Brigadier General Hope Rampy, Army Director of Personnel Management, explained in the letter that former soldiers who were involuntarily separated due to refusal of the COVID-19 vaccination could request a correction of their military records.
“As a result of the rescission of all current COVID-19 vaccination requirements, former Soldiers who were involuntarily separated for refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination may request a correction of their military records from either or both the Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB) or the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR),” Gen. Rampy’s letter read, the Daily Wire reported.
The Army's decision comes in the wake of over 8,400 service members being discharged due to the vaccine mandate, with thousands more having their requests for religious exemptions denied. Specific figures indicate that 8,945 soldiers, 10,800 airmen and guardians, 4,172 sailors, and 3,717 Marines were impacted by the denial of religious exemptions.
Faced with recruiting challenges in recent years, the Army also encouraged these former service members to consider reenlisting. Gen. Rampy directed those interested in rejoining to contact their local army, U.S. Army Reserve (USAR), or Army National Guard (ARNG) recruiters for more information.
The distribution of these letters was part of a broader response mandated by Congress, which pushed the Pentagon to revoke the vaccine mandate. A spokesperson clarified that the letters were part of the process required by the COVID mandate rescission, aiming to inform former service members about the options available for rectifying their records.
In reaction to the army's letter, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) suggested the discharged service members deserve not only an apology but also back pay.
“Maybe an apology and back pay would be appropriate as well … Or even an admission that it was a really stupid and misguided policy. Will [the DOD] finally be transparent with their data on vaccine injuries in DMED?” Johnson posted to X.
The Army's move to reconnect with discharged soldiers comes at a time when it is facing a significant recruitment shortfall, with a deficit of 15,000 recruits in 2022 and projections indicating a similar trend for the current year. This initiative represents an effort to address these challenges while rectifying the impact of the now-rescinded vaccine mandate on former service members.