The United States Army announced Feb. 2 that it will immediately begin separating Soldiers from the service who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Under a directive issued by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, commanders are to initiate involuntary administrative separation proceedings against any Soldier who has refused the COVID-19 vaccination order and does not have an approved or pending exemption request. The order applies to regular Army Soldiers, reserve-component Soldiers serving on Title 10 active-duty, and cadets.
“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. “Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”
Army Directive 2022-02 details how Army commanders are to proceed with separation proceedings and requires them to process these separation actions as expeditiously as possible. Service members separated due to refusal of the COVID-19 vaccination order will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and may be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays.
As an exception, Soldiers who will complete their separation or retirement, or begin transition leave, on or before July 1, 2022, will be granted a temporary exemption and will be permitted to complete their separations or retirements.
The least favorable characterization of service that may be issued is General (Under Honorable Conditions), unless additional misconduct warrants separation with an Other than Honorable characterization of service.
Unvaccinated Soldiers who have requested medical exemption or religious accommodations are temporarily exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement while their requests are under review.
Soldiers who receive denials of their medical exemption or religious accommodation requests will have seven calendar days from the denial to do one of the following or face separation proceedings:
- Begin a COVID-19 vaccination regimen. If a Soldier indicates intent to begin the vaccination regimen, commanders may use their discretion to adjust the timeline based on local COVID-19 vaccination supplies.
- Submit an appeal to the final appeal authority. If a final appeal is denied, the Soldier will have seven calendar days from notice of denial to begin the COVID-19 vaccination regimen.
Commanders will ensure all unvaccinated service members comply with COVID-19 screening and testing requirements and applicable safety standards. Army leaders will continue to counsel all unvaccinated individuals on the health benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Army has not yet involuntarily separated any Soldiers solely for refusing the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As of Jan. 26, Army commanders have relieved a total of six regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to Soldiers for refusing the vaccination order.
Army Directive 2022-02 (Personnel Actions for Active Duty Soldiers Who Refuse the COVID-19 Vaccination Order and Accession Requirements for Unvaccinated Individuals) will be available online at the Army Publishing Directorate website (https://armypubs.army.mil/ProductMaps/PubForm/ArmyDir.aspx).
The Army’s most recent update on vaccination and exemption statistics is available online at https://www.army.mil/article/253543/.