Senator presses Army over backpay, religious freedoms for soldiers discharged for COVID vaccine refusal

Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) is asking the U.S. Army to provide answers for former servicemen who were discharged because they refused the COVID-19 vaccination.

Nearly 2,000 military personnel were discharged after refusing the COVID-19 vaccination. In 2023, as recruitment problems are expected, the Army sent out a letter telling discharged soldiers that they can now change their discharge characterization and rejoin the branch. The Army has said the letters were part of a congressionally-mandated process.

Schmitt wrote to Secretary of Army Christine Wormuth Tuesday asking if soldiers who reenlist will receive backpay, if their previous rank would be restored, and if religious freedoms for service members would be protected.

In a letter obtained from Fox News Digital, the Republican Senator stated that “These mandates have certainly damaged our military’s preparedness and tragically destroyed careers of thousands brave volunteers.” These members faced negative consequences for veterans’ benefits and employment outside the military. Most of these former members are unlikely to return to serve the nation in the military.


The senator asked if the Army would make a continuous effort to ask this particular group of members if they wanted to rejoin after hearing that the Army fell about 10,000 short in its recruiting goal for FY 2023. In 2022, the recruitment numbers fell by a larger margin of 15,000 in comparison.

Schmitt pointed out that the branch had missed its recruitment goals. He highlighted the fact that “8,300 men, women and children across the entire military have been discharged due to COVID-19 directives.” The Army discharged 1 881 soldiers and granted only 191 exemptions from 10,699 requests.

Schmitt asked for a response by December 13th, 2023.

Fox News Digital reported that the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs at the Army would respond directly to the person who sent the letter.

Bryce S. Dubee, in a Fox statement on Wednesday, wrote: “As we do with all congressional correspondences, we will reply directly to the writer of the letter.”

The Army re-emphasized a previous message sent to Fox, after the first report that former servicemen received letters regarding their discharge in the mail.

As part of the COVID mandate cancellation process mandated by Congress the Army mailed these letters this month to approximately 1,900 people who were previously separated. Former servicemembers can find out how to correct their military records in the letter.

Task and Purpose reports that thousands of troops have unsuccessfully requested religious exemptions to the vaccination. This includes 8,945 soldiers and 10,800 airmen and their guardians, as well as 4,172 sailors and 3,717 marines.

The first military letter included forms that service members “involuntary removed for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine” could use to “request a correction to their military personnel records including regarding the classification of discharge”.

This letter shared links with discharged soldiers who may be interested in returning to service.