Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy stood in opposition to mandating vaccines for military and service members in a Tuesday letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
The Louisiana senator wrote to Austin expressing his concerns over members of the U.S. military being stripped of their “freedom” and “livelihoods” if they refuse to comply with the President Joe Biden’s administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
“Forcing our service members to comply with the mandate is counterproductive and infringes on the liberties our service members fight to protect,” Kennedy wrote. “These heroes are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend America’s liberties, but they are now losing their own freedom and possibly their livelihoods at the hands of this administration.”
The Navy announced Oct. 14 that the newly formed COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority (CCDA) will mandate that sailors receive their second dose by Nov. 14. Sailors refusing the vaccine will not be allowed to be promoted, reenlist or execute orders and will face administrative action with the possibility of being discharged and be stripped of veteran benefits. (RELATED: ‘They Are Fighting For Their Careers’: Attorney Says Navy Seals Are Being ‘Threatened, Harassed’ Over Vax Mandate)
The Biden admin has no business coercing service members to take the COVID vaccine by threatening them with the possibility of dishonorable discharge or losing their military benefits.
This policy harms our heroes and puts our national security at risk.https://t.co/PgE6iiqVbY
— John Kennedy (@SenJohnKennedy) October 26, 2021
Kennedy argued that the mandate could lead to members leaving the armed forces, citing a 2002 Governmental Accountability Office study that found that the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program led members of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to exit their duties. The Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) is the only FDA-approved in the U.S. to combat anthrax, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We cannot afford to lose brave, effective service members to a misguided White House policy. If the administration moves forward with this mandate, it should not rob separated service members of their hard-earned benefits,” the senator continued.
The senator requested that Austin specify the types of “discharge characterizations” service members will receive, the types of benefits – including health, retirement and access to the G.I. Bill – they are at risk of losing, and their chance of being stripped of the right to early retirement under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority, which allows members to retire after serving a minimum of 15 years in service.
Kennedy further argued that the mandate is a direct threat to service members’ “honor, livelihoods, and benefits” that violate the nation’s national security. He requested a response from Austin by Nov. 12.