The United States military has agreed to a $1.8 million settlement for two lawsuits that were filed against the military as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for U.S. service members during the pandemic.
The settlement of the two lawsuits, “Navy SEALs 1-26 v. Biden” and “Colonel Financial Management Office, et al. v. Austin,” resulted in a judge awarding Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing the service members, with $1.8 million to cover the legal fees for both cases.
According to Military Times, the settlement agreement was filed in a Florida federal court on Tuesday. Both lawsuits were initially filed by members of the military after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the fall of 2021.
“The military COVID shot mandate is dead,” Liberty Counsel’s chairman, Matt Staver, said in a statement to Military Times. “Our heroic service members can no longer be forced to take this experimental jab that conflicts with their religious convictions.”
The two lawsuits involved 48 members of the military, most of whom were officers in the military, and consisted of service members in each of the branches of the U.S. military. One of the lawsuits consisted of 26 Navy SEALs.
Following news of the settlement, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blasted President Joe Biden’s administration for imposing the vaccine mandate on military members.
“The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate was an affront to religious liberty,” he tweeted, “Our military service members, including the 26 Navy SEALs who took part in this case, should have never had to choose between their faith and serving our country.”
Multiple lawsuits were brought against the U.S. military in response to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, as many service members claimed that the military had unfairly denied religious exemptions for the vaccine, according to Military.com.
The Military Times reported that of the 17,000 military members who refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, over 8,000 were discharged from the military, while about 1,000 service members were granted exemptions prior to the vaccine mandate being rescinded earlier this year.
With the rescinding of the vaccine mandate, Military Times reported that service members who received general discharges for refusing to be vaccinated can upgrade their discharges with the military’s board for correction of records.
Discharged service members also are permitted to rejoin the military without receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. However, according to CNN, only 43 service members discharged due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate have returned to the military.