Navy Readies AdSep for Vaccine Refusal, Extends Vaccine Deadline
The Navy issued new guidance mid-December outlining the steps ahead for those who have not received the vaccine and do not have a pending exemption request. Sailors who missed the deadline can still get the vaccine and the Navy will retain them. Sailors who aren’t eligible to retire or ETS before June 1st and still refuse the vaccine, will find it more difficult to obtain an administrative separation with an honorable discharge. Those with six or more years of service will be able to defend their characterization of service with the assistance of a military lawyer for AdSep Board, Show Cause Board or Board of Inquiry.
Can Sailors receive an administrative separation with an honorable discharge?
Officials also said that those who continue to refuse the vaccine will separate by June 1. According to a recent article at Military.com, the Navy still has 5,731 sailors who remain unvaccinated. This number accounts for about 1.65 percent of its active-duty force. According to Military.com, 333 have medical exemptions and 2,705 sailors have filed religious accommodation requests.
The Navy hasn’t approved a religious exemption for vaccines in the last seven years and chances are no religious exemptions will be approved for the COVID19 Vaccine.
According to the report, Rear Adm. James Waters, the Navy’s director of military personnel plans and policy, told reporters those who are not eligible for retirement or separation before June 1, 2022 “will be processed for separation on the basis of misconduct for refusing a lawful order to be vaccinated.”
The result of this policy is likely that that Sailors who aren’t eligible to retire or ETS before June 1st, will find it more difficult to obtain an administrative separation with an honorable discharge.
Do Sailors need a lawyer for an administrative discharge?
This policy to separate Sailors for vaccine refusal will likely fast-track several different types of administrative separation proceedings across the Navy before June 1, 2022. Those with less than six years in the Navy will be automatically administratively separated without a hearing and with the potential of a less than honorable discharge. Because these Sailors are not eligible for an administrative hearing and will receive at least a characterization of service known as a General, Under Honorable conditions, they would not need to retain a civilian attorney. If the Navy wanted to discharge Sailors with an Other Than Honorable characterization of service, also known as an OTH discharge, they would have to hold a separation board, an AdSep board for enlisted or a Board of Inquiry for Officers. At these types of boards a Sailor would need a military lawyer for an administrative discharge board. This would give them the opportunity to defend their characterization of service with the assistance of a defense attorney.
The Navy isn’t likely to seek OTH unless there is other misconduct in addition to vaccine refusal. However, many Sailors may not be able to obtain an Honorable discharge and instead will receive a General, Under Honorable conditions discharge. A less than honorable discharge may cause the Sailor to lose certain education and medical benefits and have to pay back bonuses and tuition assistance received during their time in service. As well, it may make it more difficult to obtain a security clearance.