HomeUSAAirmen Get New System for Tracking Religious Accommodations After Pandemic Fiasco

Airmen Get New System for Tracking Religious Accommodations After Pandemic Fiasco

Published on

Weekly Newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

Air Force officials unveiled a new effort Monday that will show airmen and Space Force Guardians the status of their religious and reasonable accommodations following mismanagement of records and legal action related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The new Department of the Air Force Accommodation Portal will be a central location that will allow service members to review their records and see how their accommodation requests are progressing. The new system was seen as a necessity following an influx of requested religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate.

Previously, airmen and Guardians would have to submit their requests manually. This new portal, while not mandatory, would allow service members to follow the path of their requests and have electronic access to their records in the process.

Read Next: Republicans Vow to Boost Veteran Spending Amid Debt Ceiling Fight

“A number of accommodation processes were fragmented and difficult for service members and approving officials to navigate without a standardized and transparent system of record,” Jan Baltrusaitis, chief of the department’s COVID-19 task force, said in a press release.

The services have seen an exponential increase in religious accommodation requests, according to Baltrusaitis. “The portal offers a systemic automated solution to ensure our service members and civilians are assisted in the most expeditious manner going forward.”

The new accommodation portal comes amid a lawsuit, first filed by troops attached to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, that led to temporary protections for around 10,000 active-duty, Active Reserve, reserve and National Guard members of the Air Force and Space Force who requested a religious exemption from the COVID vaccine, although only those who have been denied an exemption would face immediate action.

Laurel Falls, a spokeswoman for the Department of the Air Force, told Military.com that “though the influx of accommodations requests tied to the COVID-19 vaccine did play a role in identifying the need for the portal,” it was overall developed to make submitting, tracking and completing all requests more efficient.

“It is estimated that the new portal will substantially decrease the processing time of accommodations requests,” Falls said. “The previous manual process for submitting religious/reasonable accommodations has been updated to an automated process introducing more efficiency and better records keeping.”

Airmen seeking religious accommodations will still follow the same process as before, which means counseling with the unit commander and medical provider, as well as an interview with a military chaplain. Once a decision is made by the major command or a field command commander, the service member is notified. Appeals go to the Department of the Air Force.

“Exemption requests are evaluated on their own merit, and the decision authority must consider the compelling government interest in mission accomplishment, which includes military readiness, unit cohesion, and the health and safety of both the member and the unit,” Falls said.

Meanwhile, a ruling in the lawsuit filed by troops, issued this past November by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, upheld previous wins by attorneys representing the service members and took aim at the Air Force’s process of approving religious exemptions. The decision sets the stage for a future trial or, possibly, the case winding its way up to the Supreme Court.

Another decision issued by that same court this past April denied the government’s motion for an en banc rehearing, meaning it asked for all 13 judges in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to address the case.

Thomas Bruns, a Cincinnati-based attorney with the Bruns, Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong law firm representing the service members, told Military.com in an interview Monday that the service members in that case are promised full relief from any harms caused by the mandate.

Until all the harm is remedied, the case is still active, Bruns said.

“They expect it to go away because they have filed a motion with the trial court claiming that the case is moot. And we will be responding to that motion, we will be opposing it, Tuesday,” Bruns told Military.com. “That motion that they filed, it is the government’s burden to prove that there is no harm left to be rectified. And the fact is, there is still harm left to be rectified.”

Falls told Military.com that the Department of the Air Force does not comment on pending litigation.

Bruns said many of his clients complained about the number of steps it took to get a religious accommodation approved.

In February, the Pentagon directed all the services to “formally rescind any policies, directives, and guidance implementing those vaccination mandates as soon as possible, if they have not already done so,” according to a statement issued at the time.

The Air Force detailed in February how it will be rescinding letters of admonishment, counseling or reprimand; records of individual counseling; nonjudicial punishments; and current involuntary discharge proceedings connected to vaccine refusal.

Additionally, “promotion records will be corrected by the [Department of the Air Force] who will remove or redact all adverse actions related to vaccine refusal,” the service said in a statement at the time.

— Thomas Novelly can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

Related: Military Services Will Amend COVID Vaccine Refuser Records So They Aren’t Passed Over for Promotions

Show Full Article

Read the full article here

Latest articles

Only $300! Bull Pump Shotgun from SDS Imports — NRA 2024

12 Guage Bullpup Feature Articles Industry News NRA 2024 SDS Imports...

Anti-Violence Project Based on Misinformation

Gun rights and safety aren't incompatible, no matter what people say. What is a problem,...

Custom Colt Pythons From Empire! — NRA 2024

.357 Magnum Accessories Colt Python Feature Articles Industry News NRA 2024...

Would You Buy a Wood Stock SIG Cross? — NRA 2024

Cross Rifle Feature Articles Industry News NRA 2024 SIG Sauer ...

More like this

Walther PPK in .32 ACP! — NRA 2024

.32 ACP Feature Articles Industry News NRA 2024 Pistol PPK/S Walther...

Just In Time for Memorial Day Cookouts: ATF Director Grilled at Congressional Hearing

ATF agents cut off the electricity to Bryan Malinowski’s Little Rock home before executing...

Adaptive Target System Shotrocker: Easy Setup Reactive Target

One might think the business of setting up a target is an easy one;...

Gun Rights and Safety Aren’t Incompatible Concepts

The right to keep and bear arms is preserved by the Second Amendment. It...

Summer Precaution: Outdoor Target Shooters Should Take Care Not to Start Wildfires

Here’s something many of us who shoot outside don’t think about too often, but...