House committee adopts amendment to rehire troops fired for refusing COVID vaccine

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday adopted an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would push the Department of Defense to rehire U.S. service members who were fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

The measure, which would require the Pentagon to create a robust plan for rehiring those service members, was adopted by voice vote as the committee considered a round of amendments for a markup of the 2025 national defense authorization act (NDAA).

The measure, however, faces an uncertain future later this year, when the committee will meet with the Democratic-led Senate Armed Services Committee to reconcile differences in the NDAA before full passage in Congress.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who offered the amendment, said the measure would correct the wrongful firing of 8,400 service members who refused the COVID-19 vaccine when it was made mandatory for the U.S. military.

“The Department has so far failed to recruit a significant number of service members separated under the COVID mandate. This is unacceptable,” she said. “These individuals possess valuable skills, and many already have training that our military desperately needs.”

In the 2024 NDAA, Congress included a measure that directed the Pentagon to consider the reinstatement of service members fired over the vaccine at the request of the veterans. Those veterans, however, must have submitted a request for a religious, administrative or medical exemption for the vaccine.

Lawmakers also included the authorization of an investigatory board to review service members discharged over the vaccine and a requirement for the Defense Department to communicate to those veterans how they can be reinstated in the 2024 bill.

In the 2023 NDAA, Congress forced the Pentagon to rescind a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

But Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) said service members are required to get multiple types of vaccines.

“Vaccines save lives,” he said. “It is a readiness issue. We currently vaccinate our forces to protect them and to protect their fellow troops. When service members get sick, it undermines the effectiveness of our entire force.”

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