New Navy Order: Unvaccinated Sailors to Be Discharged, Could Face Financial Penalties

October 16, 2021 Updated: October 18, 2021

A new U.S. Navy order says all active-duty personnel who don’t get a COVID-19 vaccine by an upcoming deadline will be discharged—with possible financial repercussions as well.

The order, which was issued last week, applies to any sailors who aren’t fully vaccinated against the CCP virus by Nov. 28, unless they’ve received a religious or medical exemption or have an application for an exemption pending.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The Nov. 28 deadline was already known, as is a Dec. 28 date for reserve personnel, but the new order (pdf) contained fresh details about what unvaccinated sailors face.

Those who haven’t complied could be separated as soon as the deadline arrives, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell wrote in the joint order. The discharge process will be overseen by the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority, which includes Nowell.

In the weeks before the deadline arrived, commanders were told not to allow any sailors refusing a COVID-19 vaccine to be promoted, reenlist, or execute orders, with the exception of separation orders.

Additionally, the sailors can be temporarily reassigned, regardless of whether they’ve received or are seeking an exemption.

Officers and enlisted members serving in leadership roles who hadn’t gotten a shot were informed in writing that they had five days to initiate a vaccination series or request an exemption. If they did neither, they would be relieved of duty and have what’s known as detachment for cause, or “administrative removal of a member from a current duty for unsatisfactory performance of duty or misconduct.”

Any Navy personnel separated because of vaccine refusal will get a general discharge under honorable conditions or a higher level of discharge. Depending on the level, they could lose some veterans’ benefits.

That’s not all they could lose.

Officers may be subject to “recoupment of unearned special or incentive pays” in select cases. The COVID authority also “may seek recoupment of applicable bonuses, special and incentive pays, and the cost of training and education for service members refusing the vaccine” from sailors, the order also says.

Unvaccinated personnel could also face a court-martial.

The order drew criticism from several lawyers who are representing military personnel seeking religious or medical exemptions.

“This is nothing more than pure vindictiveness. There’s no legitimate reason to threaten our brave service members with court-martial or involuntary separation. And now, the Navy is threatening to hurt them financially?!? You might expect a country like China or North Korea to force its people to choose between faith and country. But this is America. What the Navy is doing goes against the very fabric of our nation,” Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute, told The Epoch Times in an email.

R. Davis Younts, another attorney, said the order is “deeply concerning” and “appears to be targeting military members based on their faith.”

“My clients are being threatened with this simply for exercising their legal and constitutional right to submit a religious accommodation request. It appears as if the Navy may be signaling a plan to deny all religious accommodation requests without any consideration of individual cases, medical concerns, or natural immunity,” he said.

“My clients fear political motivations are the priority and the law and military readiness are being ignored. My clients believe it is as important as ever to stand strong against this mandate and continue to exercise all of their legal rights despite any threats they receive.”

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate, outlined by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, was announced on Aug. 30, five days after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered branch heads to develop mandates.

A Navy spokeswoman declined to comment when asked if any religious or medical exemptions had been approved.

As of Oct. 13, over 98 percent of active-duty Navy personnel are fully vaccinated or will be before the deadline arrives. Ninety-four percent of the total force have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.