U.S. service members who were fired for refusing to comply with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate are now being forced to pay back their original recruitment bonuses, which they tell Fox News Digital is a “kick in the face” after years of dedicating their lives to protecting the country.
One former Army soldier who was fired for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine last May told Fox News Digital that he would have to pay back his original signing bonus upon his termination from the military because he did not complete the commitment in his contract.
The soldier had signed a contract with the Army for six years and received a $7,000 bonus. However, because he fell short of the six years, the military notified him that he owed the government a prorated amount of slightly over $4,000. In order to pay it back, he ended up having to “sell” 60 of his unused vacation days to cover the amount owed.
He said that effects on his mental health have been extremely negative because the way he was treated by the military was a “final kick in the face.”
“I’ve deployed multiple times, and I feel like the last thing I had was selling leave days that I earned and was never able to take due to me being deployed or needing that time to prepare for the training cycle. I was about to enter a new world with no income, and that extra bit would have been a nice buffer in my rainy day fund to keep me afloat until I was able to find new employment,” he said.
“The Department of Defense continues to fall short on reestablishing trust for wrongdoings, and this is yet another example of that,” another service member told Fox News Digital, who said the recoupment of signing bonuses is the “icing on the cake” of the Pentagon’s recent treatment of troops.
“The appalling treatment these individuals endured broke the trust that is owed to our citizens and our volunteers. America’s sons and daughters,” the Army member said in a statement. “Until true efforts are made to establish trust, the recruiting and retention shortfalls will only continue. The individuals who make public statements that they are unsure what has contributed to the current recruiting and retention shortfalls need to take a look in the mirror; and perhaps they should resign for the betterment of our Nation.”
The push by the Pentagon to recoup signing bonuses from fired service members comes after President Biden signed the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which included a provision, cleared by the House and the Senate, to repeal the administration’s military vaccine mandate. This month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed a memo that will update the records and remove letters of reprimand from troops whose exemption requests to the vaccine were denied.
Lawmakers are pressuring the Pentagon to do more and provide back pay for the roughly 8,400 U.S. troops fired after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the Pentagon has said back pay for troops fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine is not an issue the DOD is “pursuing.”
Reinstatement is a priority for some Republicans who have said the strict mandate is one reason why military recruitment is at a “record low.”
A spokesperson for the Pentagon did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. An Army spokesperson referred the inquiry to the Pentagon.