Senate passes bill to expand vaccine eligibility to veterans, families

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Senate has passed a bill that was introduced by Senator Jerry Moran to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to veterans and their families.

Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) says the U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that he introduced with Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to veterans and their families under the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“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.”

Sen. Moran said the legislation will allow the VA to provide free COVID vaccine services to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and Civilian Health and Medical Programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs recipients. He said it also urges the Department of Health and Human Services to adjust the VA’s vaccine allocation based on the increased eligibility pool.

“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.”

According to Sen. Moran, the bill was introduced in the Senate as the Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize All Veterans and Every Spouse Act. He said the text of the SAVE LIVES Act was substituted for the House version of the bill, which passed during the week of March 8. The Senate-approved bill, as amended, he said now heads back to the House where it will be voted on for final passage.

“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.”

Sen. Moran said the legislation will expand the VA’s authority to provide vaccine to the following:

  • 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).

“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.”

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