Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26 announced President Joe Biden signed into law H.R. 1276, the VA VACCINE Act of 2021, which expands the number of veterans eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to include all veterans, not just those currently enrolled in the VA health care system.
“Our veterans have already fought for our country; they shouldn’t be made to fight for a vaccination spot,” Higgins said. “This legislation ensures we honor their service by providing increased COVID-19 vaccine access to veterans not enrolled in the VA health system.”
A press release stated, “The bill continues to protect and prioritize veterans in need, but expands vaccine eligibility to other veterans and registered caregivers if enough supply is available.”
Currently, the VA can only administer the COVID-19 vaccine to veterans who already receive care at the VA. This policy leaves out millions of veterans who have not previously enrolled in the VA’s health care system or veterans who are not financially eligible. The VA VACCINE Act would alleviate this issue by allowing the VA to vaccinate all veterans as well as registered veteran caregivers.
VA facilities receive a direct supply of vaccines from the federal government and do not have to share the supply provided to communities through the state.
The release noted, “The VA Western New York Healthcare System has proven to be a highly efficient model for vaccine distribution. Veterans in Western New York seeking additional information on eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine should visit the Buffalo VA website https://www.buffalo.va.gov/services/covid-19-vaccines.asp or call 1-800-532-8387. Vaccines are administered by appointment only.”
The bill, cosponsored by Higgins, was approved by the House of Representatives on March 9.