U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., showcased his proposed “Vaccines for Veterans Act” this week, hoping to expand the number of veterans who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Under current restrictions, only veterans aged 75 and older who are enrolled in the VA with a service-connected disability or limited income are eligible. The bill would allow individual VA medical centers to follow state vaccine eligibility guidance and expand access to all veterans,” the congressman’s office noted. “ Despite being otherwise-eligible in their home states, veterans across the country are being turned away by VA facilities due to federal policy that only allows the VA to vaccinate veterans who would normally be eligible for VA health care. This only includes low-income veterans and those with a service-connected disability. Even veterans with a non-service-connected disability or high-risk COVID-19 comorbidity do not qualify under the current policy. In Florida, this excludes many Vietnam veterans.”
Crist weighed in on his proposal on Thursday.
“With nearly 30,000 COVID-related deaths and Florida seniors struggling to navigate overwhelmed websites for a vaccine reservation, we should be making full use of our facilities and staff who can get shots into arms. And yet, red tape at the federal government means that otherwise-eligible veterans – particularly Vietnam veterans – are being turned away at VA facilities across our state. This makes no sense,” said Crist. “The Vaccines for Veterans Act would expand eligibility and give local medical directors the flexibility they need to vaccinate as many veterans as possible. This would increase the number of veterans vaccinated, and free-up appointments for more seniors. Let’s get it done!”
Crist’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. He has not reeled in any cosponsors yet. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.
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