In the News
WASHINGTON – An effort is underway in Congress to mandate the Department of Veterans Affairs to vaccinate all U.S. veterans against the coronavirus, as well as their spouses and caregivers.
Four senators on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee plan to introduce legislation Tuesday that would expand the population that the VA can vaccinate. The department is currently vaccinating employees and veterans enrolled into VA health care, as well as some veteran caregivers.
The “Saves Lives Act” would order the department to vaccinate any veteran, even if he or she is not eligible for VA health care. Under the bill, more caregivers would be eligible for a vaccine through the VA, as would spouses of veterans, veterans living abroad and recipients of the VA’s CHAMPVA program. The CHAMPVA program serves spouses and children of veterans permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related disability.
“The goal is to try to help as many people around the veterans get a shot so that everybody can feel comfortable,” Jon Tester, D-Mont., said during an interview Monday.
Along with Tester, Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are introducing the bill.
Boozman said he heard from several veterans in his state who were unhappy that their spouses couldn’t get vaccinated when they did. During a Senate hearing Feb. 24, Boozman brought up the issue with Dr. Richard Stone, the VA’s acting undersecretary for health. Stone said that because of federal law, the VA wasn’t allowed to vaccinate spouses.