Authored by J.M. Phelps via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
An Army captain was separated from the service for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine as the GOP attempts to roll back Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s military vaccine mandate.
Capt. Stephen Rogerson (a pseudonym) has served in the Army for 17 years, and on Dec. 6, a three-person administrative board voted to separate him from service. On the same day, the House passed an $858 billion defense funding bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2023, that included a provision to rescind the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
But soldiers like Rogerson are “falling through the cracks of a failed policy at precisely the wrong time,” according to R. Davis Younts, an Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General (JAG) and civilian attorney.
In October 2021, Rogerson received a temporary medical exemption through his primary care manager. Within two hours of submitting his request for exemption to the vaccine to his command, it was denied.
“Rather than accepting my exemption, they gave it to the command surgeon who overturned it and took measures to deny it—without the authority or policy in place to do so,” he told The Epoch Times, using a pseudonym for fear of reprisals.
“In addition to opposing the vaccine for medical concerns, I was opposed to it because it came out so quickly and there was no way possible to know its long-term side effects.” Thus, he took all necessary steps to oppose the vaccine.
For this, Rogerson received a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand in February, which was permanently filed into his record.
“Those things are going to be in my record, unless there’s some sort of language requiring the military to take out the adverse actions given to soldiers who refused to take the experimental vaccine,” he said.
“While Congress taking action is a great thing, the language isn’t clear,” Rogerson said.
According to Younts, “The latest language in the NDAA is compromised language,” explaining that the agreement will only end the Department of Defense’s (DoD) vaccine mandate, and does not address the issue of the thousands of service members who have already been separated or who have had adverse action taken against them due to their refusal to take the vaccine.
If the NDAA is approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden, Austin would have 30 days to rescind the mandate.
“I know, firsthand, the military is continuing to push the vaccine and boosters,” he said. “The Navy and Coast Guard, in particular, are putting tremendous pressure on its members.”
Younts believes the “coercion” to get the vaccine will continue, even if the mandate is rescinded.
He questioned whether “the DOD’s intent will be to continue to punish and kick out those individuals who violated the supposed ‘lawful order’ to get the vaccine while it was a mandate.”
The White House said including the provision in NDAA was “a mistake.”
“Making sure our troops are ready to defend this country and prepared to do so, that remains the President’s priority, and the vaccine requirement for COVID does just that,” John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said during a press briefing on Dec. 7.
A Whole New Fight
Service members in the Air Force, Marines, and Navy are currently protected by a preliminary injunction that prohibits the respective services from taking adverse actions against the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, the Army and Coast Guard are subject to such restrictions.
“Without a change in the policy, soldiers could still be punished with travel restrictions, other measures to prevent training and education, and more,” Rogerson said. He expects “restrictive measures to remain in place, depending on how the DoD treats the guidance that comes down from Congress.”
To that end, Younts said, “There are still a lot of people in the Army and Coast Guard that have a letter of reprimand in their file for refusing the vaccine.” Many have not been promoted, have been restricted from travel, and have had other actions taken against them, he said.
“Because of this, the military’s position could be that [service members] violated the initial order when it was a mandate, and they’re still going to move to kick them out.”
Rescinding the vaccine mandate via the NDAA is “a small step,” Younts said. “What’s going to force the DoD and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to change their policy and not punish or retaliate against those who are in a refuser status, but their cases still haven’t been processed to completion yet?”
Furthermore, the language of the NDAA does not reinstate thousands of military members who have already been separated from the service. “Congress has not required the DoD to address any of these issues,” Younts pointed out.
“All it says is that as the NDAA goes into effect, the mandate doesn’t exist anymore,” Younts explained. “Unless there’s more court action or another intervention,” he said, “the DoD is still going to consider the previous vaccine mandate a valid order, and those who refused that order, they’re going to continue to be punished.”
Younts is also concerned about the current injunctions in place for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy.
“For example, if the Air Force case goes to trial next year and we lose, a whole bunch of these people already have a letter of reprimand in their record or have had other adverse action taken against them,” he said. And because of this, “The Air Force could still punch them and kick them out for disobeying a so-called lawful order,” the attorney added.
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