WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee — as well as Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to veterans and their families under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“This is great news for veterans, their families and caregivers,” said Brown in a news release on Thursday. “As we work to vaccinate all Ohioans and get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, we must ensure that our veterans can access the vaccine easily and for free. I am proud to be part of the Senate’s unanimous passage of this bill and expect the House to pass it swiftly.”
The senators’ Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act would allow VA to provide no-cost COVID vaccination services to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) recipients to the extent that such vaccines are available.
It also urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adjust VA’s vaccine allocation based on this increased eligibility pool, as much as the supply chain allows, the news release stated.
This legislation builds upon the VA VACCINE Act, legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives and led by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano and Ranking Member Mike Bost.
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).
Earlier this month, Brown reintroduced bicameral legislation to allow children of disabled veterans to remain eligible for VA healthcare until they are 26 years old – the same coverage required under the Affordable Care Act for private-sector insurance plans, as well as the military’s TRICARE program.