The US Navy has issued guidance to commanders to start administrative separations for service members continuing to refuse the COVID-19 vaccination.
The Navy released these procedures, points of contact and other details in NAVADMIN 283/21 on December 15, noting the door remains open for those who change their minds.
“In order to ensure a fully vaccinated force, US Navy policy is, first, that all navy service members receive the vaccine as directed and, second, that any who refuse the vaccine be processed for separation at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr., the chief of naval personnel in the message.
“While the vast majority of navy service members have already received the vaccine, it remains in the interest of the navy to encourage remaining navy service members to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible and, at such time, consider them for retention.”
However, service members currently refusing the vaccine who change their minds still have a path to stay navy, even if they cannot meet the navy’s stated vaccination deadlines.
Once these sailors initiate their vaccination series, they can now work through their commands to report this updated status to COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority (CCDA). Unless there are extenuating circumstances, they could see administrative separations paused or stopped.
Service members with pending COVID-19 vaccination exemption requests will not be processed for separation, it was noted. However, if denied they must start vaccination within five days of notification.
Nowell said that those who continue refusing would see their administrative separation processing expedited to “maximize speed and equity in achieving a fully vaccinated force,” he said.
The message applies to anyone on regular active duty or those in the reserve full-time support community.
Navy service members refusing the vaccine who are eligible or approved for retirement, separation or transfer to the Fleet Reserve on or before June 1, 2022 can request to expedite that process and leave the service as soon as their circumstances allow. Unless they have extenuating circumstances, these separation requests will result in an honorable discharge.
Service members with less than six years of service are not entitled to an Administrative Separation (ADSEP) board. For these refusers, separation processing will result in an honorable discharge except for those sailors with an EAOS before June 1, who will not be processed.
Navy service members refusing the vaccine with more than six years of service are eligible for an ADSEP board for enlisted or board of inquiry for officers. Those choosing the board route will be processed for separation which could result in a discharge with a characterization of General (Under Honorable Conditions).
Those willing to expedite the separation process by waiving their administrative separation board or boards of inquiry can request an Honorable discharge in exchange. These requests will generally be approved unless their case also involves additional misconduct or unique circumstances.
Unchanged in the separation process is any other administrative consequence of vaccine refusal detailed in previous CCDA NAVADMINS.
This means that unless expressly waived by the CCDA, all other administrative actions affecting pay, promotion or advancement, etc., will continue to apply.
The message, available in full here, said that no service member separated based on vaccine refusal will be eligible for involuntary separation pay.
It was also added that officers separated for vaccine refusal but who have not yet completed their service obligation for attending the US Naval Academy or being awarded a Naval Reserve Officer Training Scholarship will be required to repay their educational expenses. This policy includes service members who have received advanced education funds.