Sixty-two thousand Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers are being deprived of pay and benefits, due to noncompliance with the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.
The military service members who are not vaccinated, or do not have a pending or approved exemption, will no longer be allowed to drill or train, Army officials said last week. If noncompliance continues, officials say they will discharge them. The move to bar soldiers from service, pay, and benefits comes as the armed forces have struggled with recruitment. The Army cited "maintaining readiness" as the branch’s rationale for enforcing the vaccine mandate, according to a statement.
Army officials point out their "policy affords every Soldier the opportunity to request an exemption, such as for medical or religious concerns." Previous reporting by the Washington Free Beacon, however, found that military leadership has granted few. In the Marine Corps, just three service members were granted religious exemptions. Congressional Republicans have pressured the Pentagon for more information about the armed forces vaccine mandate, but their calls have gone unanswered.
Republican leaders have attempted to ban the use of taxpayer funds to implement the Department of Defense’s vaccine mandate. "Hundreds of service members and their families have reached out to our offices about the direct impact of this mandate, their careers of service, and toll on their families," a coalition of Republican House lawmakers led by Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) wrote in February.
Republican governors have pledged not to discharge guardsmen who refuse to get vaccinated. Options available to governors to maintain soldiers' pay and benefits, however, appear limited. Governors can deploy soldiers on state active-duty orders, which would entitle them to pay, but not federal benefits. It is also unclear how conflicting orders from state and federal authorities would be handled in the National Guard's chain of command.