The Pentagon has told troops that were discharged for refusing to take an experimental COVID-19 vaccine that they’re not getting any back pay even after federal courts have upheld their right to refuse.
“Right now, we are not pursuing, as a matter of policy, back pay for those who refused the vaccine,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told reporters this week in response to a number of questions on the matter, U.S. News noted. “At the time those orders were refused, it was a lawful order,” he added.
The outlet noted further:
He spoke a week after the Pentagon formally rescinded the policy that required all troops to receive the shots with very few exemptions, in line with new legislation signed into law on Dec. 23 that forced the change.
Politico had reported on Friday, citing an unnamed spokesperson, that the department was considering issuing back pay at that time. Ryder on Tuesday distanced the Pentagon from any such speculation.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in announcing the congressionally mandated repeal was unapologetic for the policy, saying in a memo on Jan. 10 that he is “deeply proud for the Department’s work to combat the coronavirus disease,” which he said “will leave a lasting legacy in the many lives we saved.” He cited the orders from Congress that he change the policy, said no further service members would be discharged for refusing the vaccine and announced that any troops under existing investigation or judicial process would be cleared.
Nearly three dozen House Republicans led by Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) introduced a bill last week that would reinstate troops at their same rank and pay before they were discharged.
Mast, a U.S. Army vet and former combat engineer who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, said in a statement:
“We are facing multiple national security threats — now is not the time to play politics with servicemembers who are committed to serving the United States. While repealing the unconstitutional COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the military was a step in the right direction, we should finish what we started and give every servicemember discharged for exercising his or her right to medical freedom an opportunity to return to the military.”
More than 8,400 service members were discharged from the military after refusing to take the vaccine.
Those Republicans who have signed on to Mast’s bill, thus far, are: Reps. Jeff Duncan (SC), Matt Gaetz (FL), Jeff Van Drew (NJ), Diana Harshbarger (TN), Brian Babin (TX), Bill Posey (FL), Dan Bishop (NC), Gus Bilirakis (FL), Andy Biggs (AZ), Bill Huizenga (MI), Rick Allen (GA), Lisa McClain (MI), Mike Kelly (PA), John Rutherford (FL), Greg Murphy (NC), Greg Steube (FL), Claudia Tenney (NY), Mary Miller (IL), Tim Burchett (TN), Michael Cloud (TX), Mike Bost (IL, Scott Perry (PA), Thomas Massie (KY), Pete Stauber (MN), Bill Johnson (OH), Wesley Hunt (TX), Ben Cline (VA), John Moolenaar (MI), Pat Fallon (TX), Barry Loudermilk (GA), Brad Finstad (MN), Ryan Zinke (MT), and Byron Donalds (FL).