Department of Veterans Affairs Expanding COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
August 12, 2021 Updated: August 12, 2021

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on Aug. 12 that it’s expanding its COVID-19 vaccine to include most employees and volunteers.

Under the expansion, the bulk of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) workers, including Hybrid Title 38 and Title 5 health care personnel such as pharmacists, engineers, and housekeepers, must be vaccinated. VHA is a component of the VA.

“We’re now including most VHA employees and volunteers and contractors in the vaccine mandate because it remains the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement.

“This pandemic is not over and VA must do everything in our power to protect Veterans from COVID-19. With this expanded mandate, we can once again make—and keep—that fundamental promise.”

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The VA last month became the first federal agency to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for some of its workers. The Department of Health and Human Services announced the expanded mandate on Aug. 12, and the Department of Defense signaled this week that it plans to require vaccination soon.

The first tranche of workers that was told to vaccinate were Title 38 employees, including doctors, dentists, and nurses.

They were told they had eight weeks to get fully vaccinated (all required shots) or face termination.

As with the initial mandate, the newly covered workers will have eight weeks to provide proof of vaccination at their local VHA Occupational Health Office.

The first mandate applied to about 115,000 workers, a VA spokesman told The Epoch Times via email. The expansion covers about 245,000 additional employees.

The department so far has proof of vaccination for about 80,000 of the first group and 120,000 of the second group.

The VA employs about 415,000 people, including about 370,000 by the VHA. About 55,000 employees aren’t covered by the initial or expanded mandate.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the VA’s largest employee union, said last week that it would negotiate any changes to working conditions with bargaining units prior to implementation. The union didn’t respond to a request for comment on Aug. 12.

Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom group, argued last month that the VA mandate was illegal, noting that the COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the United States have not received full approval.

“Under the federal Emergency Use Authorization law, these shots cannot be mandated or administered without the free and full consent of the individual,” Mat Staver, the group’s founder and chairman, said in a statement.

Liberty Counsel said last week that it was flooded with requests from VA health care workers who don’t want the vaccine.

Other agencies have since mandated vaccines or announced plans to, including the Department of Defense.

Under federal law, people can claim religious or medical exemptions to vaccines.

The Department of Justice last month deemed vaccine mandates legal, asserting that the law doesn’t prevent public agencies or private businesses from requiring immunizations.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.