WASHINTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) has joined U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in introducing legislation to preserve the readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces by limiting separations based on COVID–19 vaccination status.

The Preserving the Readiness of Our Armed Forces Act (S.4925) would restrict COVID-related separations until recruiting benchmarks are met among the Services. It would also ensure continued pay and benefits for servicemembers while religious and health accommodations are pending.

“Defending our nation and its interests represents our primary constitutional duty.  President Biden’s unwillingness to give up his COVID vaccine mandates and penalties is hurting U.S. military retention and recruitment, which affects national security,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Senator Blackburn’s commonsense legislation to correct this situation deserves consideration, passage, and enactment.”

“Joe Biden announced the ‘pandemic is over,’ and therefore has no reason to continue to fire our servicemembers using his politically-motivated vaccine mandate. America’s national readiness should not be jeopardized because this White House is hellbent on preserving their forever pandemic. My legislation continues my work to strengthen our armed forces and prevent yet another unconstitutional power grab from the Biden administration,” said Blackburn.

U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) also cosponsored S.4925, which has two main focuses:

  • Involuntary Separation:  The bill would prohibit involuntary separation of a servicemember for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine until each Service achieves its end strength authorized end strength.  As the military faces recruiting and retention deficits, it is not in the interest of national security to separate otherwise ready servicemembers solely for vaccine refusal.
  • National Guard and Reserve:  The bill requires maintained access to pay and benefits for National Guard or Reserve members while their request for a religious or health accommodation is pending.  This would bring Guard and Reserve policy in line with active duty policy, and prohibit what is essentially adverse action before a determination. 

The bill has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee.