This comes in the wake of Congress compelling the Pentagon to withdraw its blanket vaccine mandate for all military personnel nearly a year ago.
Earlier this month, the Army extended an invitation to former soldiers who had declined the vaccine to reapply, in response to ongoing recruitment challenges. The service also informed those discharged due to vaccine refusal that they could seek information on reapplication from their local recruitment offices.
Army spokesman Bryce Dubee revealed to The Post that approximately 1,900 letters were sent out to individuals previously separated from the service, as part of the broader process of rescinding the COVID mandate as directed by Congress. Soldiers who had refused the vaccine without an exemption were previously expelled from the military for violating a lawful order, resulting in the discharge of 1,903 soldiers from the Army alone.
However, with the mandate now withdrawn, the Army is open to readmitting unvaccinated soldiers, provided they meet certain criteria. While a comprehensive list of these standards is not readily available, defense officials have indicated that applications are evaluated on an individual basis.
For instance, a soldier who respectfully declined the vaccine is more likely to be readmitted than one who openly defied orders and acted against their superiors.
Although only 19 of the 1,903 discharged soldiers have returned to active duty so far, the Army anticipates this number to increase following the distribution of the letter. The correspondence also reminded former soldiers of their right to petition for a correction of their service record if their discharge or disqualification was deemed erroneous or unfair, as per the Army Review Boards Agency.
The Army's recruitment efforts fell short by 10,000 new troops in the fiscal year 2023, which concluded on September 30, missing its target of 65,000 recruits. The reinstatement of previously discharged soldiers could potentially help bridge this gap.