March 31, 2023
House Republicans Press DOD for Answers on Vaccine Mandate Reversal and Damage Done

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) are pressing the Pentagon for answers on its plan to implement the COVID vaccine mandate reversal, the damage the Biden administration’s mandate did to the military, and reinstatement of troops to the military.

Rogers and Banks said the administration has been “slow” to provide answers.

In a letter sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on February 8, 2023, Rogers and Banks said:

A letter of December 23, 2022, requested ‘your plan to implement this statutory requirement.’ Your four-sentence reply to the letter on January 26, 2023, failed to include any implementation plan. Additionally, staff has repeatedly asked for answers to many COVID-19 rescission questions critically important to the retention and recruitment of men and women in each of the armed service.

House and Senate Republicans were successful last year in using the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to force the Biden Pentagon to reverse its COVID mandate, which required all servicemembers to be vaccinated or face being kicked out of the military. More than 8,400 troops were involuntarily kicked out.

Now, Republicans are trying to make sure the Pentagon is following through with the mandate reversal, amid stories that the DOD is still discriminating against unvaccinated troops.

Austin, in a memo rescinding his vaccine mandate, said commanders could still make decisions based on vaccination status, such as deployments, and left it unclear whether the DOD would force out members who did not apply for a religious or medical exemption when the mandate was in effect from August 2021 through January 2023.

“Are potential military recruits required to submit an accommodation request to avoid being forced to receive the COVID vaccine?” Rogers and Banks asked in their letter.

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 15: Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., arrives for the House Republicans leadership elections in the Capitol Visitor Center on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 15: Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., arrives for the House Republicans’ leadership elections in the Capitol Visitor Center on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

They also reiterated their request for other answers, such as how many discharges took place after the reversal was signed into law and the DOD formally rescinded the mandate.

They also asked for the number of troops discharged broken down by rank, years of service, and date discharged, as well as their discharge characterization (honorable, general under honorable, etc.).

They also inquired about whether servicemembers still had to pay back recruitment bonuses if they were forced out, and how much they have to repay, and how much has been repaid.

They also asked how many National Guard members missed drill time due to the mandate, and how much time they missed.

They also inquired about the policy at service academies and whether any students who were disciplined under the mandate would have their records cleared or be allowed to graduate.

They asked whether the DOD has reinstated any servicemembers forced out under the vaccine and its plan to ensure that reinstatement is offered to any separated servicemembers.

They requested answers by February 21, 2023.

“Please note, many of the questions or requests for information presented above have gone unanswered for weeks, if not months. The Department and the Biden Administration must no longer refuse to respond to requests for information from this Committee,” they said.

The letter is part of the Republicans’ efforts after retaking control of the House to hold the Biden administration accountable. With the House under their control, House Armed Services Committee Republicans will be able to exert more influence over the NDAA than last year.

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