Billings Gazette: All vets, plus spouses and caregivers, eligible for COVID vaccines through VA

by Paul Hamby

Recent legislation has made all Montana veterans, along with their spouses and caregivers, eligible for COVID-19 vaccines through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Through the SAVE Lives Act, the Montana VA Health Care System will be hosting another round of clinics that will allow vaccines for vets and their families regardless of whether they are enrolled in the health care system.

“We are excited to help bring COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans’ family members and caregivers. We’ve seen the peace of mind and security these vaccines have brought to Montana’s Veterans, and we are happy we can help create safety from the pandemic in homes and communities across Montana,” said MTVAHCS Executive Director, Dr. Judy Hayman in a press release issued Wednesday.

President Joe Biden signed the Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse Act into law March 24. The bipartisan legislation, which allows the VA to administer vaccines to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and caregivers as supplies allow, also makes doses available to those enrolled in the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has consistently said that getting shots into the arms of as many veterans as possible has to be a top priority for both the committee and the VA.

To date, just over 1,977,000 veterans have been fully inoculated against COVID-19 through the VA healthcare system. Including VA employees and the department’s federal partners, a total of 2,275,723 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the VA’s national summary.

The single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine accounts for less than 5% of doses administered by the VA. However, the department has followed a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration in temporarily halting use of the vaccine. The pause will remain in place until the vaccine is cleared of any connection with a rare blood clot that occurred in six people out of the nearly 7 million who received the single dose.

Montana VA Health Care System Public Affairs Officer Katie Beall told The Gazette that as of Wednesday, MTVAHCS had distributed 15,606 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to clinics and facilities throughout the state. Those have included both the Johnson and Johnson and Moderna vaccine.

Beall said although MTVAHCS had previously been utilizing the single dose vaccine, it has since pivoted back to doses of Moderna for the upcoming clinics. Veterans enrolled in the VA can call (877) 468-8387 to schedule an appointment. Vets who are not enrolled, their spouses and caregivers can sign up online at Non-enrolled Veterans, their spouses, caregivers and CHAMPVA recipients can register online at

Walk-in appointments will be available as supplies allow. Veterans who are not enrolled in MTVAHCS should bring their DD-214 to their vaccine appointments, according to a press release from the Montana VA.