Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch accompanied Senator Ted Cruz and ten other congressmen in reintroducing the Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act of 2023.

The act builds on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 passed in the Senate last month, which included language to appeal COVID-19 vaccine mandates for the Department of Defense.

Crapo said in Jan. 23 press release, “While the DOD ending their vaccine mandate for service members is a welcome first step, we must continue to push for the repeal of all related penalties and forced separations previously imposed on our women and men of our Armed Forces.”

Highlights of the AMERICANS act

The bill would require the Department of Defense to:

— Prohibit the Secretary of Defense from issuing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate without the approval of Congress

— Reinstate any service member discharged solely for his or her COVID-19 vaccine status who wants to return to service

— Restore the rank of any service member demoted solely for COVID-19 vaccine status, compensating the service member for any pay and benefits lost due to that demotion

— Adjust any “general” discharge given to a service member for not following the vaccine mandate to “honorable”

— Make every effort to provide service members not vaccinated against COVID-19 with professional development, promotion and leadership opportunities equal to that of their vaccinated peers

— Provide a COVID-19 vaccine exemption process for service members with natural immunity, a relevant underlying health condition or a sincerely held religious belief inconsistent with being vaccinated

Senator Risch spoke about the injustice of the vaccine mandates.

“America’s brave service members were given an unfair, unjust ultimatum when U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin instituted a vaccine mandate,” Risch said. “While few service members received religious and health exemptions, most were discharged and denied GI eligibility. Thankfully this vaccine mandate was rescinded, but Congress must right the wrongs of the Biden Administration’s initial mandate.”

Senator Ted Cruz, the sponsor of the bill, hoped the bill would help military members throughout the country if it passed.

“The AMERICANS Act would correct the wrongs done to unvaccinated service members who were discharged for exercising their conscience,” Cruz said.

You can read the Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots act here.