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Trump vows to re-enlist, backpay troops fired over COVID-19 vaccine

Former President Donald Trump points to supporters during the Save America rally at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 3, 2022. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
November 16, 2022

As thousands of troops are being discharged for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, former President Donald Trump promised to reverse “every Biden COVID mandate” and reinstate military members who were fired for vaccine refusal.

Trump made the remark while announcing his next campaign for the presidency during a speech Tuesday night.

“We will abolish every Biden COVID mandate and rehire every patriot who was fired from our military with an apology and full back pay,” Trump said.

The military-wide vaccine requirement ordered in August 2021 has led thousands of service members to be discharged even as branches face recruiting shortfalls and fail to meet their target strengths.

In October, 26 House Republicans submitted a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who ordered the mandate, asking when it would come to an end.

As many as 14,000 Army National Guard soldiers could be discharged for vaccine refusal in the next two years, though none have been discharged for that reason yet, Stars and Stripes reported.

Trump made a similar call to rehire discharged vaccine refusers in January, saying Republicans should make that happen if they retook the House in the midterm election, Insider reported. As of Wednesday, Republicans are one seat away from control of the House, while Democrats control the Senate.

The Biden administration has attempted several different vaccine mandates. Some were struck down in court, but others are in effect, or only on hold while legal processes play out.

Enforcement of Biden’s mandate for all federal employees is on hold amid ongoing litigation, according to the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. The same goes for the mandate on federal contractors, a group that includes airline companies.

A Biden vaccine mandate is in effect for healthcare staff, including at the vast majority of hospitals, through a rule affecting Medicare and Medicaid providers, Healthcare Dive reported.

A mandate covering teachers, contractors and volunteers in the Head Start early childhood learning program was recently blocked by a judge who ruled it was beyond the authority of the executive branch, the Daily Advertiser reported.