Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, has called on Defense Secretary Mark Esper to drop a proposed Pentagon policy barring U.S. military branches from recruiting anyone who has been hospitalized with coronavirus.
In a letter sent to Esper on Monday, Biggs warned against U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) implementing a policy that would render an individual’s hospitalization over coronavirus to disqualify them from military service.
“I am extremely concerned with reports on the recent Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) draft guidance for the purpose of ‘rendering a medical qualification determination for an applicant with a history of confirmed COVID-19,'” Biggs wrote. “The draft guidance stated that an individual’s history with coronavirus would be ‘considered disqualifying’ from joining the service.”
Biggs noted the original draft of the Pentagon policy made any coronavirus diagnosis a disqualifying factor, but later updated the standard to only disqualify those hospitalized due to their coronavirus diagnosis.
“This new standard was quickly updated to apply to only those who had been hospitalized for coronavirus. Despite this update, my serious concern remains,” Biggs wrote.
“MEPCOM’s draft guidance may yield unintended consequences for coronavirus survivors and the military. If an individual can pass the Military Entrance Processing Station screening process – despite a hospitalization for coronavirus – they should be allowed to serve,” Biggs said. “I agree that more research is needed to study the long-term effects of coronavirus on the human body. However, I do not think that the lack of research available warrants permanently disqualifying patriotic Americans from serving in the military.”
Biggs added, “For many across our country, the American-led coronavirus response has instilled a sense of patriotism and devotion to duty. We must honor that unique commitment.”
Biggs concluded his letter with a request that Esper intervene and rescind the proposed recruitment policy.
A readout of coronavirus cases within the U.S. military, provided to American Military News by the Pentagon, currently lists more than 5,300 active military personnel as having been diagnosed with coronavirus, 115 of which have been hospitalized.
The U.S. military has also been heavily involved in the U.S. response to the coronavirus, with many military personnel helping form the front lines in the effort to stop the pandemic. Members of the U.S. military, including various states’ National Guard units, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Navy hospital ships have all been brought to bear as part of the coronavirus fight at home throughout the ongoing pandemic.
Several U.S. military also bases served as quarantine locations for U.S. citizens being repatriated from other countries during the early days of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response.