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US Navy outlines discharge policy for unvaccinated sailors, includes possible punishments of recouping cost of training and education

Image source: Instagram/U.S. Navy

The United States Navy announced new details about its COVID-19 vaccine mandate that goes into effect next month. The Navy noted that a newly created panel that will oversee the administrative discharge process for unvaccinated sailors could recoup the cost of training and education for service members who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine.

All active-duty sailors are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 28. Service members in the selected reserve must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 28. Technically, sailors must have both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson by Nov. 14 so they can complete the 14-day waiting period to achieve full vaccination status by Nov. 28.

Those who refuse to get the vaccine by the deadline and do not have a medical or religious exemption will be discharged. Those service members will receive no lower than a general discharge under honorable conditions, which could result in the loss of some veterans' benefits.

To oversee the administrative discharge process for unvaccinated sailors, the Navy recently established the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority. The CCDA has the authority to punish unvaccinated sailors by recouping the cost of training, education, and more.

"The CCDA may also seek recoupment of applicable bonuses, special and incentive pays, and the cost of training and education for service members refusing the vaccine," the U.S. Navy stated in a press release.

"For Navy service members refusing the vaccine, the CCDA also retains the authority for administrative processes regarding removal of warfare qualifications, additional qualification designations (AQD), Navy Enlisted Classifications (NEC), or sub-specialties, except in cases where removal authority is otherwise authorized by law or Executive Order," the Navy said.

Adm. William Lescher, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said the CCDA would "ensure a fair and consistent process" for the discharge of unvaccinated sailors.

As of Wednesday, 94% of active-duty sailors are fully vaccinated and 99% have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the U.S. Navy. For reserve sailors, 72% are fully immunized against COVID-19 and 78% received at least one dose.

The Washington Post reported that 76.5% of active-duty Marine Corps personnel are vaccinated, and a mere 38% of Marine Corps Reserve personnel are vaccinated. There are reportedly 60,000 Air Force service members who are not fully vaccinated ahead of the branch's Nov. 2 deadline. Only about 40% of the Army Reserve and National Guard are vaccinated, but they have a vaccination deadline of June 30, 2022.

According to Navy data released on Oct. 13, there have been a total of 163 COVID-19 deaths within the branch, of which 102 were civilian employee deaths.

The U.S. Navy has 347,487 active duty personnel, 96,710 reserve personnel, and 281,161 civilian employees as of July 2021.

"Tragically, there have been 164 deaths within the Navy family due to COVID-19, far exceeding the combined total of all other health or mishap related injuries and deaths over the same time period," Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr., the Chief of Naval Personnel, said on Oct. 14.

The Navy noted that of the 164 Navy COVID-19 deaths, 144 were not vaccinated. The vaccination status of the remaining 20 deaths remains unknown.

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