U.S. military veterans who reject the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for the military may lose the veterans’ benefits to which they are normally entitled.
As deadlines for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine approach across all the military branches, veterans that choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine and are dismissed from their posts will not receive special protections or preferential evaluations for veterans’ benefits eligibility. The decision will be ultimately determined by their discharge status, Military Times reported on Friday.
Veterans’ benefits include preferential evaluations for home loans, transition assistance programs, and access to GI Bill benefits, among others. The only programs they may remain entitled to are mental healthcare services through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Efforts to impose punitive measures against veterans who reject the vaccine come despite lobbying from Republican lawmakers for a less punishing approach, the publication reported.
The Military Times reported:
“We see the vaccine as a readiness issue,” said Gil Cisneros, Defense Department undersecretary for personnel, during testimony before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Any discharge decision is up to the individual service as to how they proceed with that.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Air Force and Space Force officials announced that about 8,500 airmen missed the Nov. 2 deadline to get the coronavirus vaccine. That represents about 3 percent of the services’ total personnel.
The other military services have similar deadlines in coming weeks.
According to the publication, Cisneros “acknowledged concerns” from enlisted service members about the vaccine, but said officials remain adamant that a mandate is needed. As such, the Department of Defense has no plans to implement dispensation programs for any veteran who rejects the vaccine.
The Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Donald Remy said that cases will be evaluated by officials to take into consideration “mitigating or extenuating circumstances, performance and accomplishments during their service, the nature of the infraction and the character of their service at the time of their discharge.”
The department will not handle vaccine refusals any differently than any other-than-honourable discharge.