Boozman-Led Initiative to Expand Access to VA COVID-19 Vaccine Signed into Law
SAVE LIVES Act to provide no-cost vaccination services at VA to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and CHAMPVA recipients
Mar 24 2021
WASHINGTON– More veterans will have the ability to access the COVID-19 vaccine administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) following the signing of U.S. Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act into law.
The Boozman-led initiative was the result of input Arkansas veterans shared with the senator about their experience with the VA’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. The senator shared the concerns of Natural State veterans with a VA official during a committee hearing last month. Under questioning from Boozman, Dr. Richard Stone, Acting Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), testified that legislation is needed to authorize an expansion of the VA’s vaccine distribution beyond individuals enrolled in VHA programs.
“This is a great legislative victory for the veteran community. We’ve seen how the VA is establishing a high standard for distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine to veterans in rural and underserved areas. The SAVE LIVES Act will allow the VA to expand the great work it’s doing to get shots in the arms of more veterans, their loved ones and caregivers. This is a good example of how Arkansans play a role in shaping federal policies. I appreciate the input from Natural State veterans who provided insights about how the VA’s work could be improved and made even more effective. Their feedback helped pave the way for expanded eligibility for spouses and caregivers through the VA,” Boozman said.
The SAVE LIVES Act introduced by Boozman, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) would allow the VA to provide no-cost COVID-19 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. The SAVE LIVES Act builds upon legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives.
The SAVE LIVES Act 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).
Members of the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously advanced the legislation last week.