The U.S. Army has cut off the pay and benefits of around 57,000 Army Guard and Reserve soldiers who are not fully unvaccinated against COVID-19 without an approved or pending exemption.
On July 1, the Army announced that the June 30 vaccination deadline for Army Guardsmen and Reserve soldiers has passed and that reserve component soldiers “may not participate in federally funded drills and training and will not receive pay or retirement credit.” An Army official told Fox News that this policy leaves about 57,000 reserve component soldiers without pay and benefits.
According to the Army’s latest vaccine statistics as of Friday, 87 percent of the Army National Guard is fully vaccinated, and 89 percent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, out of a force size of about 336,000 troops. About 89 percent of the Army Reserve is fully vaccinated, and 90 percent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, out of a force size of about 189,500.
In addition to stopping pay and benefits, the Army warned reserve component soldiers who continue to go unvaccinated could be subject to further punishments, including separations.
Unit commanders will be able to reactivate and pay otherwise suspended soldiers for limited administrative purposes including getting the vaccine, processing exemption requests, or conducting separation procedures.
Out of the roughly 30,000 Army Guard troops who are entirely unvaccinated, six have received permanent medical none have received any religious exemptions. The Army Guard has rejected another 72 requests for vaccine exemptions while 1,194 still awaiting a final decision. This leaves about 29,000 Army Guard soldiers who are entirely unvaccinated and will forego pay and benefits until they either comply with the vaccine mandate or the Army separates them. Roughly 6,700 Army Guard soldiers who are partially vaccinated must also forego pay and benefits until they complete the vaccination process or the Army takes further steps against them.
Out of the roughly 20,800 Army Reserve troops who are unvaccinated, there are no approved vaccination exemptions of any type. 283 exemption requests have been denied while another 2,075 are awaiting a final decision. This leaves about 18,700 Army Reserve soldiers who are entirely unvaccinated and must forego pay and benefits. Roughly 1,900 Army Reserve soldiers who are partially vaccinated must also forego pay and benefits until they complete the vaccination process or the Army takes further steps against them.
The potential for around 57,000 reserve component soldiers to be separated comes as the Army is already struggling to meet its force size goal for the 2022 fiscal year.
Army Guard soldiers who lose federal pay and benefits or are separated at the federal level could still potentially continue in state-level service, depending on the policies of state-level leaders. In November, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin rejected Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s request to exempt his state’s National Guard troops from the federal military COVID vaccine mandate. Department of Defense officials said in November that unvaccinated Guard troops could lose their federal status and only be considered state-level militia members.