Officials Warn Veterans Benefits Won’t Be Guaranteed for Troops Who Refuse Vaccine
Defense and Veterans Affairs officials have issued a warning to troops: refuse the vaccine, and you may be potentially blocked from receiving veterans benefits.
It has been left up to local commanders whether to give troops who refuse the vaccine other-than-honorable discharges. And officials said their cases won’t get any preferential evaluations for veterans’ benefits eligibility.
Republican lawmakers pushed for a less punishing approach, but it has been hung up in the chambers.
The Nov. 2 deadline to get the COVID vaccine was missed by 8,500 airmen, Air Force and Space Force officials announced. That equates to 3% of the force that chose to not get the vaccine by the deadline.
Deadlines for other services are coming up in the next few weeks.
More via Military Times:
Cisneros acknowledged concerns from a small portion of the active-duty force about the vaccines but said officials are steadfast in their belief the mandate is needed. As such, the department does not plan to put any special programs or dispensation in place for individuals dismissed for refusing the shots. VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy said that those cases will be evaluated by department benefits officials to weigh “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.” That’s standard operation for all veterans, and the department is not planning to handle vaccine refusals in a separate or different way. Individuals with honorable discharges will be eligible for things like GI Bill benefits, VA home loans and transition assistance programs. Individuals with other-than-honorable discharges are still guaranteed mental health care services through VA, but may be blocked from most other benefits.
Back in September House lawmakers approved language in the defense authorization bill that would prevent troops who refuse the vaccine from being dishonorably discharged. They claimed that would be too severe of a punishment.
However, that language has not been signed into law, and it still needs to go through negotiations within the Senate later this year.
By that time, Republican lawmakers warned thousands of troops could be dismissed from the ranks already.