Blackburn bill ends penalties for unvaxxed service members after Biden said pandemic is 'over'

The legislation comes days after Biden stated that the COVID pandemic is 'over'

EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Marsha Blackburn is introducing a bill that would end any punishment imposed against service members seeking religious accommodation to the Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, after President Biden said the pandemic is "over."

The "Preserving the Readiness of our Armed Forces Act of 2022" is intended to strengthen the military's readiness by "limiting separations based on COVID–19 vaccination status and continuing pay and benefits for members while religious and health accommodations are pending."

The legislation would keep access to pay and benefits for service members while their religious or health accommodations are being considered and end involuntary separations based on vaccination status.

"After Joe Biden announced the ‘pandemic is over,’ he has no excuse to continue to fire our service members under a politically-motivated vaccine mandate," Blackburn, R-Tenn., told Fox News Digital. "America’s national readiness should not be jeopardized because this White House is hellbent on preserving their forever pandemic to control Americans. My legislation continues my work to strengthen our armed forces and prevent yet another unconstitutional overreach from the Biden administration."

NAVY QUIETLY ROLLED BACK PUNISHMENTS FOR SEALS SEEKING RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS TO THE COVID VACCINE

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is introducing a bill that would end any punishments being put on service members seeking religious accommodation to the Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is introducing a bill that would end any punishments being put on service members seeking religious accommodation to the Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. (Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.)

Biden stated during an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes Sunday, "The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. It's -- but the pandemic is over."

Blackburn's legislation comes days after the Pentagon's watchdog said the Department of Defense is in "potential noncompliance" with standards for reviewing and denying religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, according to a report obtained by Fox News Digital.

The DOD's acting inspector general said the agency's hotline received "dozens" of complaints regarding denied religious exemption requests from military service members.

The Pentagon's watchdog said the Department of Defense is in "potential noncompliance" with standards for reviewing and denying religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, according to a report obtained by Fox News Digital.

The Pentagon's watchdog said the Department of Defense is in "potential noncompliance" with standards for reviewing and denying religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, according to a report obtained by Fox News Digital. ((AP Photo/Danial Hakim))

"We found a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies," he continued in the report to the secretary of defense.

Fox News Digital first reported that U.S. Navy service members who are seeking religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate have been transferred into deplorable living conditions and, in some cases, are unable to leave while awaiting termination from the military.

Unvaccinated members of the Air Force have been grounded from flying since their religious exemption requests have been denied.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

One sailor who is part of a class action lawsuit said in a court-filed declaration they "could not leave the area" after asking to be terminated from the military due to religious objections to the mandate and were moved to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier's berthing barge, where the conditions are "deplorable."

Another Navy technician who has served for more than nine years said in written testimony that their performance rating started suffering after submitting a religious exemption request.

Other service members have told Fox News Digital that they have not been made eligible for promotions due to their vaccination status.