Biden Administration Opposes Honorable Discharges for Troops Refusing to Take Coronavirus Vaccine

A United States Marine receives the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Foster on April 28
Carl Court/Getty Images

The Biden White House issued a statement this week opposing a provision in a bipartisan defense bill that would prohibit dishonorable discharges for members of the military refusing to get a mandatory coronavirus vaccine.

The Biden administration released a Statement of Administration Policy on September 21, that said the provision, authored by Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), “would detract from readiness and limit a commander’s options for enforcing good order and discipline when a Service member fails to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccination.”

“To enable a uniformed force to fight with discipline, commanders must have the ability to give orders and take appropriate disciplinary measures,” the White House statement said.

Green, an Army veteran and physician, tweeted in response to the statement:

@POTUS is trying to strip out my amendment preventing anything but an honorable discharge for servicemembers who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine—an amendment so commonsense that EVERY Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee agreed to it!

Green argued at a House Armed Services Committee markup of the bill earlier in the month, “Any discharge other than honorable denotes a failure to serve the United States to the best of one’s ability, and it significantly impacts an individual for the rest of their lives — future employment and things of that nature.”

He added: “Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line to serve and we should not destroy their lives with a dishonorable discharge just for making a personal medical decision.”

The Biden Administration also “strongly opposes” another provision that would provide an exemption for troops who have had previous infections and have natural immunity. It said section 720 “would create a new and overly broad exemption from the vaccination requirement for previous infection that would undermine the effectiveness of the requirement.”

Section 716 of the NDAA states:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a member of an Armed Force under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of a military department subject to discharge on the basis of the member choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may only receive an honorable discharge.

FORT KNOX, KY - SEPTEMBER 09: Preventative Medicine Services NCOIC Sergeant First Class Demetrius Roberson administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a soldier on September 9, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Pentagon, with the support of military leaders and U.S. President Joe Biden, mandated COVID-19 vaccination for all military service members in early September. The Pentagon stresses inoculation from COVID-19 and other diseases to avoid outbreaks from impeding the fighting force of the US Military. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Preventative Medicine Services NCOIC Sergeant First Class Demetrius Roberson administers a coronavirus vaccine to a soldier on September 9, 2021, in Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Section 720 states:

The Secretary of Defense shall establish uniform procedures under which covered members may be exempted from receiving an otherwise mandated COVID-19 vaccine for administrative, medical, or religious reasons, including on the basis of possessing an antibody test result demonstrating previous COVID-19 infection.

The Biden Pentagon in late August ordered that all service members be vaccinated against coronavirus.

On Tuesday, a group of Republican senators announced legislation also seeking to prohibit dishonorable discharges for troops who do not comply with the vaccine mandate, according to The Hill. The senators included Sens. Roger Marshall (KS), Ted Cruz (TX), James Lankford (OK) and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

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