WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to veterans and their families under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The senators’ legislation would allow VA to provide no-cost COVID vaccination services to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) recipients to the extent that such vaccines are available. It also urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adjust VA’s vaccine allocation based on this increased eligibility pool, as much as the supply chain allows.
“Military service is family service, and it is why the VA and this committee aim to care for both veterans and their families,” said Sen. Moran. “The Senate acted quickly to make certain the VA has the freedom to vaccinate veteran spouses, non-enrolled veterans, caregivers, overseas veterans and others with excess COVID-19 vaccine supply. While the VA will continue to prioritize vaccinating VHA enrolled veterans with its allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine, this legislation will help further protect our veterans and their families.”
“Vaccines are our best shot at ending this pandemic,” said Sen. Tester. “Unanimous passage of the SAVE LIVES Act brings us one step closer to our goal of providing free vaccination services to every veteran, spouse, child, and caregiver at VA. I’m grateful that all 99 of my Senate colleagues agree on the need to protect more veterans and their families, and I encourage the House to take up this bipartisan bill that’ll do just that.”
“I’m pleased the Senate recognized the need to quickly pass the SAVE LIVES Act and harness the great work the VA is doing,” said Sen. Boozman. “By expanding its authority to vaccinate all veterans, their spouses and caregivers, we can protect the men and women who have sacrificed so much for all of us and speed up the return to normalcy for everybody. I encourage the House to take up this critical legislation so we can get shots in more arms.”
“This bill will get COVID vaccines to significantly more veterans,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “Vaccinations are the key to winning our fight against this pandemic, but I’ve heard concerns from veterans across Connecticut who can’t access vaccines because they are not enrolled in VA health care. I’m proud to work with a bipartisan group of my colleagues to ensure all veterans, their spouses and kids, and caregivers are able to get the vaccine, and hope that the House acts swiftly to pass this important legislation.”
Introduced in the Senate as the Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act, the text of the SAVE LIVES Act was substituted for the House version of the bill which passed last week. The Senate-approved bill, as amended, now heads back to the House where it awaits final passage.
This legislation will expand VA’s authority to provide vaccines to:
- Veterans who are not eligible for enrollment in VA’s health care system, including veterans without compensable service-connected disabilities and veterans who have incomes above a certain threshold;
- Caregivers of veterans who are enrolled in various VA home-based and long-term care programs;
- Veterans living abroad who rely on the Foreign Medical Program;
- Spouses of veterans; and
- CHAMPVA recipients (spouses or children of permanently and totally disabled veterans or of veterans who have died from service-connected disabilities).
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