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What's next for troops previously kicked out for refusing COVID vaccine?

A lawyer from a firm that represented hundreds of military members who sought vaccination exemptions said the DOD should return them to duty.

NORFOLK, Va. — The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 23, requires Secretary of Defense  Lloyd Austin to rescind the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all military personnel within 30 days of the bill's signing.

Among many questions which still need answering: 

  • How will removing the mandate affect troops in the process of being separated for refusing the vaccine? 
  • What becomes of the more than 8,400 service members who were kicked out for refusing the vaccine?
  • How likely is it for the military to reinstate those who were discharged for refusing to get the shots?

"It's terrible, what happened to those individuals," said  Army veteran Anthony Kuhn, a partner with the Tully Rinckey law firm, which represented hundreds of service members who applied for exemptions to the vaccine mandate.

In an interview Thursday with 13News now, Kuhn continued: "I'm glad the mandate is being lifted. Now, I'd like to see them create an avenue for these service members to get back in the force. Hopefully, what they do is the right thing here."

According to the Department of Defense website, more than 2 million members -- or 96% of the total force -- has been vaccinated.

"If they really are interested in readiness as they've said all along, then they would institute a policy to allow those individuals back into the military without having to cut through red tape to get there," Kuhn said, before adding: "But, I don't know if that's going to happen or not."

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