This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Recently The Hill wrote an article stating that Veterans who refused the vaccine could be refused benefits. In the world where the left seems hellbent on “fact-checking,” it’s amazing they would run with such an article. So lets get into it.
Technically the article is correct…technically. But chances are it won’t come to fruition for the majority. Only those with other charges will be administratively separated, the term from the Manual of Courts Martial, for a “pattern of misconduct.” For those who have not been in any type of trouble they will be charged, tried or Non-Judicial punishment (aka NJPed) then given their walking papers either with an honorable or general discharge, assuming they have a competent attorney.
Here’s how it works: when you’re charged with a crime in the military, you can refuse NJP which means the Commander can hold an internal hearing and find the military member guilty. NJP does not have to be offered nor does it have to be accepted.
Most military attorneys in political cases like the vaccine mandate will advise their client to accept NJP if they’re close to getting out. This can result in reduction of rank, loss of pay, placement on restriction or confinement, as examples. Receiving NJP once rarely affects the discharge.
NJP or Trials
If the military member is not close to the end of active service, many attorneys will tell them to refused NJP if offered and request a trial. Now, the government doesn’t want to defend political positions, so what generally happens is they come to a pre-trial agreement. It’s kind of like a plea deal designed to save the military time, money, and embarrassment. The defense agrees to waive its trial by jury and/or agrees not to bring up certain aspects of defense, like political issues or undue influence of command, in exchange for certain punishments to be removed from consideration. Punishments like general other than honorable or bad conduct discharges. It’s important to remember only an appointed judge can give a dishonorable discharge or accept a plea with a bad conduct discharge.
This was exactly what happened in the case of LtCol Scheller. He and his attorneys accepted a pre-trial agreement that they would not use Undue Command Influence as a defense. The Marine Corps, by direction of the Commandant, had illegally released information from Scheller’s medical record and a good defense attorney will make a case of jury tampering. To get around this the government took bad conduct and general other than honorable off the sentencing. Scheller had a plea agreement on top of that pretrial agreement that he would plead guilty to retain his honorable discharge and all his benefits. The Marine Corps put itself at a disadvantage under the direction of Commandant General Berger for political motivation and Scheller walked away honorably as a result.
This result is expected from 90% of the cases that come from refusing the vaccine mandates. Already there are whistleblowers showing the intent behind the services to deny refusal for religious exemption. The government doesn’t want to go into a series of trials defending its own actions instead of prosecution of another’s actions.
There are experts at The Hill who know this. The story is tantamount to fear mongering. While what they state is possible, it’s unlikely in most cases. But here’s where it gets more interesting. In the cases where a general other than honorable discharge is given, it’s possible that those veterans can still get their benefits. Again, The Hill has experts who know this.
It’s common knowledge amongst Veteran Service Officers who help veterans develop their claims that the VA is badly overrun with delays and red tape. They routinely encourage veterans who receive an other than honorable discharge to appeal their discharge. In virtually all of the appeals the discharge is upgraded at least one level to general under honorable or honorable discharges, depending on the case. In both of those instances they can still get their benefits.
There’s even more options for the veteran as well. They can sue if they feel their VA appeal is mishandled. Like the military, the VA doesn’t want to be embarrassed and have to defend a political position and waste time and resources doing so. Again, a settlement can be reached. The experts at The Hill should know this since they talked directly to the VA. All of this assumes the military provides a coherent response to the vaccine mandates. Last week the Department of the Navy released a memo changing some of the details as to how it will comply with the mandate. The messaging is changing by day. In doing so, it creates confusion and gives defense attorneys more options in the courtroom.
Michael Arthur is a writer and "Veteran Nation" show host for NRN. He's an Afghanistan Veteran and Marine Corps enlisted-to-officer mustang. After leaving active duty 2015, Arthur has remained active in several veterans organizations in his local community.