Veterans Affairs triples vaccine eligibility; 33 million can now get doses

The Hampton VA Medical Center receives the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations. (Hampton VA Medical Center/TNS)
March 29, 2021

The Veterans Administration can give COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans, instead of only to those already eligible for VA health care service, under a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden this week.

The law also says veterans’ spouses and caregivers can be vaccinated by the VA. But under the law, the VA still must prioritize the vaccination of veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system.

Veterans who failed to enroll but who receive hospital care and medical services for specified disabilities in their first 12 months of separation from service also have priority for vaccination, as do the caregivers for prioritized veterans.

All in all, the law increases the number of people who can get vaccinated at VA facilities from 9.5 million to 33 million, said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough.

In addition to clearing the way for veterans who are not eligible to enroll in the VA’s health care system, the law would also permit vaccinations for:

* family caregivers approved to provide personal care services under the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers;

* caregivers of veterans participating in the VA’s Program of General Caregiver Support Services;

* caregivers of veterans participating in the VA’s Medical Foster Home Program, Bowel and Bladder Program, Home Based Primary Care Program, or Veteran Directed Care Program and

* veterans who are eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care abroad;

“Meeting the task of vaccinating this expanded population will be a tremendous undertaking for the VA and will require a significant increase in our allocation of vaccine supply, but I am confident that VA’s workforce is up to the task,” McDonough said.

As of March 24, the VA fully vaccinated nearly 1.6 million veterans, VA employees and federal partners.

For the rest of March and in April, the VA will conduct pilots of COVID-19 vaccination for individuals specified in the new law at some VA medical centers,, which are to be selected.

These pilots will address such issues as communications, operations including space and staffing, systems for registration, enrollment, and scheduling, documentation, and data transmission.


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