All veterans, their spouses, and caregivers will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the Department of Veterans Affairs once doses are made available, under legislation finalized by Congress on March 19.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Sens. 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).
It passed without objection in both the House and Senate on March 17 and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law in the coming days, the Military Times reported.
Under existing rules, VA medical facilities are only permitted to administer vaccines to veterans who are eligible for VA health services, as well as certain caregivers registered in departmental support programs.
Currently, the number of people eligible for the vaccine through the VA currently totals just under 7 million individuals. Under the new bill, that figure would jump to more than 20 million, according to the Military Times.
It would also make vaccines eligible “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.”
CHAMPVA recipients are spouses or children of permanently and totally disabled veterans or of veterans who have died from service-connected disabilities.
The legislation 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 Moran in a statement on Wednesday.
“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.”
The newly finalized legislation comes amid Biden’s sweeping effort to inject 100 million CCP virus vaccines, more than a month before a target date of his 100th day in office.
Biden is aiming for the country to return to a relative state of normalcy and begin to move on from the pandemic by the July 4th holiday.