March 4, 2024

The U.S. Army sent a letter to former service members dismissed for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, informing them they can request corrections of their discharge records, as the military branch reportedly struggles with recruitment three years after the onset of the pandemic. 

The letter, which gained traction on social media, was addressed to former service members and notified of “new Army guidance regarding the correction of military records for former members of the Army following the rescission of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.” 

It states, “as a result of the rescission of all current COVID-19 vaccination requirements, former Soldiers who were involuntarily separated for refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination may request a correction of their military records from either or both the Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB) or the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR).” 

The letter, signed by Brigadier General Hope C. Rampy, of the U.S. Army Director of the Military Personnel Management Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, goes on to link to three forms where “individuals can request a correction to military personnel records, including regarding the characterization of discharge.” 

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covid vaccine administered to soldier

A soldier receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Army Preventative Medical Services on Sept. 9, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

“Individuals who desire to apply to return to service should contact their local Army, US Army Reserve (USAR) or Army National Guard (ARNG) recruiter for more information,” it concludes.

An Army spokesperson on Sunday confirmed the authenticity of the letter to Fox News Digital. 

The spokesperson said the letter, dated November 1, does not explicitly ask former Army members dismissed for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine to return to service. 

The Army provided additional information on Monday.

“As part of the overall COVID mandate recession process mandated by Congress, the Army mailed the letters following Veterans Day weekend to approximately 1,900 individuals who had previously been separated for refusal to obey the mandatory COVID vaccination order,” Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ruth Castro told Fox News Digital in an emailed statement Monday.

“The letter provides information to former servicemembers on how to request a correction of their military records,” Castro added. 

The Instagram accounts @analyzeeducate and @northernprovisions, jointly shared a copy of the letter to their combined hundreds of thousands of followers on Saturday.

soldier gets covid vaccine

Preventative Medicine Services NCOIC Sgt. First Class Demetrius Roberson administers a COVID-19 vaccine on Sept. 9, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

“The US Army has sent letters to soldiers that were discharged for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, offering to correct their records. Most, if not all, of the soldiers that were kicked out for not getting the vaccine were given a discharge that was other than honorable,” the post says. “The letter indicates that the Army is hoping these soldiers will apply to return to service.”

“The military in general has been going through a major recruiting crisis for the past two years. For both FY2022 and 2023, only the Marine Corps and the Space Force met or exceeded their recruitment goals. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all missed their targets by a long shot,” the accounts go on to say.

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“The size of the active duty Army has shrunk from 485k in 2021 to 452k right now,” the post added. “This is the smallest active duty Army since 1940. In 2022, they missed their recruitment goal by 15,000 soldiers. This crisis has necessitated changes made to policy, including the removal of a policy that mandated recruits have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Although, after a lot of backlash that policy was quickly reinstated. Around 8,000 soldiers were kicked out for not getting the vaccine, which is a lot even if you don’t take the context of the recruiting crisis into account. The letters that were sent out have been verified by the Army as well.”

troops vaccinated

In 2021, the Pentagon, with the support of military leaders and President Biden, mandated COVID-19 vaccination for all military service members.  (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

On Oct. 3, the U.S. Army announced a transformation of its recruiting enterprise, stressing how “the armed forces facing the most challenging recruiting environment in a generation.” 

At a press conference from the Pentagon, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff of the Army Randy George detailed sweeping changes in how the Army will identify and recruit talent by expanding focus past high schoolers to a larger share of the youth labor market and create “an increasingly permanent and specialized talent acquisition workforce.” 

They said the Army expects to have ended fiscal year 2023 with nearly 55,000 recruiting contracts, including roughly 4,600 for the Army’s Delayed Entry Program – recruits who will ship in the 2024 fiscal year. As a result, the Army said it will meet its end-strength goal of 452,000 for active-duty soldiers.

“The competition for talented Americans is fierce, and it is fundamentally different than it was 50 or even 20 years ago,” Wormuth said. 

Task and Purpose noted the Army separated about 1,900 active duty service members for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine during the nearly year-and-a-half it was mandatory. 

Regarding recruitment woes, the outlet also cited a July 2022 memo from the Department of the Army stating that “America’s military faces the most challenging recruiting environment since the All-Volunteer Force was established in 1973, driven in part by the post-COVID labor market, intense competition with the private sector, and a declining number of young Americans interested in uniformed service.” The memo said, “currently, only 23 percent of 17- to 24-year-old Americans are fully qualified to serve.”

Citing data provided by the military branches, CNN reported in October that only 43 of the more than 8,000 U.S. service members discharged from the military for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 have sought to rejoin eight months after the vaccine mandate was officially repealed. 

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin officially rescinded the COVID-19 vaccination order for service members on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Austin had issued a memo on Aug. 24, 2021, requiring service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Task and Purpose, thousands of troops unsuccessfully sought religious exemptions from the inoculation, including 8,945 soldiers, 10,800 airmen and guardians, 4,172 sailors, and 3,717 Marines.

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