WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden signed into law bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and her colleagues that will expand COVID-19 vaccine access to all veterans, their spouses, and their caregivers through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
While many VA Medical Centers offer vaccines to veterans who receive their health care through the VA, this new law changes the policy that restricted VA Medical Centers from providing no-cost vaccine options for veterans not enrolled in VA services. Now VA Medical Centers have the option to offer vaccines to veterans who are not enrolled in VA services – as well as their spouses and caregivers.
“Getting more vaccines into arms is critical to our efforts to save lives and get through this devastating pandemic. I am very pleased that President Biden signed into law our bipartisan bill that will allow VA Medical Centers to build on their current vaccination efforts. Because of this new law, more veterans – and their spouses and caregivers – will be able to get vaccinated more quickly,” said Senator Hassan. “I will continue to work to strengthen our country’s vaccine production and distribution, and help ensure that veterans receive the care that they deserve and have earned.”
The bipartisan Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act would allow the VA to provide no-cost COVID vaccination services to all veterans, the spouses of veterans, caregivers, and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) recipients to the extent that such vaccines are available. The legislation also urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adjust the VA’s vaccine allocation based on this increased eligibility pool, as much as the supply chain allows.
The SAVE LIVES Act will expand VA’s authority to provide vaccines to:
- Veterans who are not eligible for enrollment in VA’s health care system, including veterans without compensable service-connected disabilities and veterans who have incomes above a certain threshold;
- Caregivers of veterans who are enrolled in various VA home-based and long-term care programs;
- Veterans living abroad who rely on the Foreign Medical Program;
- Spouses of veterans; and
- CHAMPVA recipients (spouses or children of permanently and totally disabled veterans or of veterans who have died from service-connected disabilities).
Senator Hassan is working to support veterans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The Senator recently participated in a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, where she pressed top officials at the VA about what the agency is doing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines quickly and efficiently to veterans in New Hampshire and across the country. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan that Senator Hassan helped pass into law will strengthen veterans’ health care services, including to support mental health and telehealth, and also includes significant funding for job training to help veterans get good-paying jobs. Senator Hassan also recently helped secure key priorities for Granite State veterans in the bipartisan veterans package that was signed into law earlier this year, including the Deborah Sampson Act, which Senator Hassan joined in introducing to eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face. The bipartisan package also included a number of other measures cosponsored by Senator Hassan, including supporting veterans experiencing homelessness, helping veterans safely dispose of unwanted medication, and helping address the high rate of unemployment among veterans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, last year Senator Hassan cosponsored bipartisan legislation, which is now law, to improve veterans’ access to mental health care in New Hampshire and across the country.