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Department of the Air Force releases COVID-19 policy

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force released its policy today outlining the way forward for Total Force military members serving in the Air Force and Space Force who have requested separation or retirement prior to Nov. 2, 2021, or whose COVID-19 medical exemption or religious accommodation was denied.

For those who refused to obey a lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, commanders will continue to take appropriate administrative and disciplinary actions consistent with law and Department of the Air Force policy. Additionally, this will result in the member being subject to initiation of administrative discharge proceedings and service characterization will be governed by the applicable Department of the Air Force Instructions.

Service members separated due to refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and will be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays, according to Department of the Air Force officials.

Supplemental Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination Policy is located here.

Unvaccinated Airmen and Guardians who submitted a request to retire or separate prior to Nov. 2, 2021, with a retirement or separation date on or before April 1, 2022, may be granted an administrative exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement until their separation date.

Unvaccinated Airmen or Guardians with a request for medical exemption or religious accommodation are temporarily exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement while their request is under review. 

- Members who receive a denial of their medical exemption or religious accommodation have five calendar days from denial of their request to do one of the following:

1. Begin a COVID-19 vaccination regimen. If the service member indicates their intent is to begin the vaccination regimen, commanders may use their discretion to adjust the five-day timeline based on local COVID-19 vaccination supplies;

2. Submit an appeal to the final appeal authority for a religious accommodation request or request a second opinion for medical exemptions. If a final appeal is denied, the service member will have five calendar days from notice of denial to begin the COVID-19 vaccination regimen;

3. If able, based upon the absence of or a limited Military Service Obligation, and consistent with opportunities afforded service members prior to Nov. 2, 2021, request to separate or retire on or before April 1, 2022, or no later than the first day of the fifth month following initial or final appeal denial.

- Service members who continue to refuse to obey a lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after their exemption request/final appeal has been denied or retirement/separation has not been approved will be subject to administrative discharge. Discharge characterization will be governed by the applicable Department of the Air Force Instructions.

Commanders will ensure all unvaccinated service members comply with COVID-19 screening and testing requirements and applicable safety standards. Leaders should continue to counsel all unvaccinated individuals on the health benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Supplementary Guidance for members of the Air Force Reserve is located here.

Supplementary Guidance for members of the Air National Guard is located here.

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