MTN News: Bill expanding VA COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to vet spouses and caregivers passes Congress
HELENA – Congress has passed bipartisan legislation that will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to any veteran, veteran spouses, caregivers, and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs recipients.
The VA had previously only been able to vaccinate enrolled veterans and VA staff.
The legislation was spearheaded by Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders, Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-Ill.).
“Unanimous passage of our bipartisan bill means we’re one step away from ensuring that every veteran, spouse, and caregiver in this country has access to a vaccine from VA,” said Chairman Tester. “This legislation is a critical step in reaching our common goal of saving more lives and getting our economy back on track as quickly and safely as possible. I thank Senators Moran, Boozman, Blumenthal, and our House colleagues for joining me in our effort to provide veterans and their families with the protection they need to get through this pandemic, and I urge the President sign this bill into law without any delay.”
The bill is now headed to President Biden’s desk with the hope that he will sign it into law next week.
“Military service is family service, and that is why the VA and this committee aim to care for both veterans and their families,” said Ranking Member Moran. “I urge the President to quickly sign this legislation into law 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.”
On Saturday, Mar. 20, the Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) is partnering with the Montana Army National Guard to conduct its largest COVID-19 vaccination clinic to date at the National Guard’s Aviation Readiness Center near the Helena airport.
Saturday’s Moderna vaccine clinic has 1000 spots available and is open to any enrolled veterans for a first-dose vaccine shot no matter their age or health status.
Walk-in vaccines for enrolled veterans will be available from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, but MTVAHCS says the best way to confirm a spot is to call 877-468-8387 to set up a vaccination appointment themselves.
“These additional vaccines are great news for hundreds of veterans across Montana,” said Tester. “VA has proven it can quickly deliver vaccines where they’re most needed, and I’m proud to have worked with the Administration to secure this week’s allocations. I’ll keep pushing to get more shots into arms, so that we can help save lives and get all Montanans through this pandemic.”
There have been 50 vaccine clinics across 14 communities MTVAHCS has held for veterans since late December. Although limited by supply, MTVAHCS has provided over 12,500 COVID-19 vaccines to Montana Veterans.