Editor’s note: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect who can return to service.
Service members who were forced out of the military because they refused the COVID-19 vaccination, but had requested a waiver that was denied, now have a path for rejoining, according to the senior enlisted advisers who testified before Congress today.
The process to rejoin will be similar to what a service member goes through after a break in service, assuming the service member meets the qualifications, said Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, in testimony before the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, veteran affairs and related agencies. He said the Army published its guidance this week.
The Marine Corps released its guidance today, said Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black, and it’s “exactly the same” as the Army guidance.
Air Force policy is also similar, said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass. She added that the Air Force is making sure the process is quick, fair and that officials are handling the requests on a case-by-case basis.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy James Honea didn’t specify whether the Navy has released guidance, but said the process will be the same for all the services, resulting from a memorandum from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Honea said those actions are due sometime in late March.
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., said he has talked to many service members in his district, which includes Jacksonville. “One of the things I keep hearing is they want to come back,” he said. He noted that more than 8,000 service members have been discharged for refusing the vaccine.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.