The Defense Department’s inspector general has alerted the secretary of defense to apparent blanket denials of religious accommodation requests (RAR) for exemptions from the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which would be a violation of federal law.
The memo details “potential noncompliance with standards for reviewing and documenting the denial of religious accommodation requests of Service members.” The acting inspector general noted that “dozens of complaints” had been received regarding denied RARs.
“We have found a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies,” wrote acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell.
The inspector general originally sent the memorandum to the defense secretary in June, but it was not forwarded to the secretaries of each military service and the DOD general counsel until three months later, on Sept. 2.
“Additionally, the volume and rate at which decisions were made to deny requests is concerning,” the Office of the Inspector General added. “The appeal authorities of the Services we reviewed indicated that an average of 50 denials per day were processed over a 90-day period. Assuming a 10-hour work day with no breaks or attention to other matters, the average review period was about 12 minutes for each package. Such a review period seems insufficient to process each request in an individualized manner and still perform the duties required of their position.”
Amid the many lawsuits against the Defense Department regarding denied RARs, one of the key arguments made by service members’ legal counsel is that the denials were predetermined and nearly identical, contrary to the individualized assessment that they are supposed to receive.
“The Inspector General is now confirming what my clients and I have known for months,” said attorney R. Davis Younts, who represents several military members who were denied religious exemptions. “The DoD […]
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