Under a new “Deploy or Discharge” policy devised by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, service members who are medically “non-deployable” for 12 or more months will be discharged beginning October 1, 2018, unless they are in an exempt group -- e.g., personnel recovering from service-related injuries, recognized combat wounded, pregnant service members.
The Department of Defense (DOD) reports that out of a total force of 2.1 million, 286,000 service personnel are medically non-deployable on a given day, including 99,000 who are out of compliance with required immunizations, medical or dental care. Hepatitis B (HBV) civil rights advocates seek to prevent the discharge of 695 non-deployable service members -- almost all of them likely from Asian American, Pacific Islander American, and other immigrant/refugee communities.
Diagnosed with chronic HBV years after they entered military service, the “non-deployable” classification of these service members is the result of outdated HBV policies and DOD’s failure to document science and evidence-based HBV regulations. In fact, when advocates pointedly ask why there are no HBV-specific personnel management regulations, DOD responds that HBV-infected service members are managed under personnel regulations for HIV -- despite the fact that HBV is not mentioned in those regulations. Moreover, the regulations fail to disclose that 1) HBV is vaccine-preventable, 2) HBV vaccination is mandated for all incoming DOD personnel, and 3) chronic HBV is treatable with a daily pill that lowers viral load to levels considered non-infectious by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 2013, HBV civil rights advocates have advocated for DOD to reform its HBV policies and regulations. We are currently appealing to the offices of Rep. Adam Smith (WA-9, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee); Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii, Member, Senate Armed Services Committee); the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; and Congressional Hepatitis Caucus.
It’s time to contact Congressional offices and caucuses and demand that Secretary Mattis halt “Deploy or Discharge” action that will irreparably harm service members unjustly classified “non-deployable.”
Email your Members of Congress using the form and template provided below.
Call your Members of Congress! Look up your representatives here -- click "more details" to find their office phone number.
The careers of service members who are medically "non-deployable," including 695 DOD personnel living with chronic hepatitis B (HBV), are at risk come October 1st, when the DOD implements a new “Deploy or Discharge” policy. Most, if not all 695, are from America’s 1st and 2nd generation Asian, Pacific Islander, African and other immigrant/refugee communities.
Mandatory discharge of these service members will compound and magnify an existing injustice: their “non-deployable” status is based on DOD’s outdated HBV policies and its failure to document scientific, evidence-based regulations for a vaccine-preventable disease that is rendered “non-infectious” by a daily antiviral pill and against which DOD personnel are immunized upon entering military service.
Congress must halt unjust discharge action and irreparable harm for 695 service members currently classified “non-deployable,” due to Defense Department policy failings.
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