Biden administration rescinds military vaccine mandate after defense legislation passed

By Jen Krausz on
 January 13, 2023

Biden Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday rescinded the military COVID vaccine mandate, in accordance with the defense bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden before the holiday recess, but that doesn't mean everything will go back to normal in the armed forces.

No one who refuses to get the vaccine will be discharged from the military anymore under the new rules if they ask for a religious or health exception, and those who were discharged for not getting the vaccine will be able to change their discharge to an honorable one.

There is no path for reinstatement for those discharged, however, and refusal without asking for an exception is not allowed.

Republicans have said they would work toward reinstatement this year, along with back pay and benefits.

Austin and the DOD still encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated, however, and some of what service members will be able to do is still contingent on getting the vaccine, such as deployment to places where the vaccines are required.

The memo read:

Other standing Departamental policies, procedures, and processes regarding immunization remain in effect. These include the ability of commanders to consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.