As an influx of veterans seek the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, many want clarity on when and where they will be able to get their vaccines. Under a plan developed by VA in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and federal guidelines, VA is disseminating the vaccine through a phased plan.
According to VA, the phased plan will enable it “to do the most good for the most people” during this time.
Under the current plan, VA health-care personnel, veterans living in VA long-term care facilities and veterans who are at higher risk for serious complications or death due to COVID-19 are able to get their vaccines now. These high-risk veterans include those with chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, in-patient spinal cord injuries and disorders, and those with comorbidities. Additionally, family caregivers who are enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers are eligible for vaccination when the veteran they care for becomes eligible, according to VA.
For more information and to determine if you’re eligible to receive your COVID-19 vaccine from VA, visit this web page. Additionally, veterans can find their local VA health facility and its current plan by visiting this VA page.
Due to a larger percentage of high-risk patients within the VA health-care system compared to the general public, it may take longer for veterans not at an increased risk to receive their vaccine. In some instances, it may be faster for a veteran to receive a vaccine through their state rather than through VA. You can find information on your state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan here.
“The American Legion has the utmost confidence in VA to balance the vaccine rollout, while prioritizing the most vulnerable veterans and health-care providers,” said Mario Marquez, director of The American Legion’s Veteran Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. “VA has assured us they will provide this balance with site-specific resources, needs, availability and local status of the pandemic.”
In order to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through VA, a veteran must be enrolled in the VA health-care system. However, veterans attempting to enroll in VA health care for the first time who fall into category 8g, will not be eligible for the vaccine as they are also not currently eligible for VA health care. This is due to a VA change in policy from 2003 which removed 8g eligibility as these veterans do not have a service-connected disability and their income exceeds the allotted amount to qualify for VA coverage.
The American Legion supports 8g reintegration into VA health care. At the 2016 National Convention, the National Executive Committee approved Resolution No. 2 that called for the reinstatement by VA.
“The American Legion stands behind providing access to VA health care to veterans regardless of their economic status,” Jeff Steele, an associate in the National Legislative Division, told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs on Dec. 2, 2020.
The American Legion is also on record in recent testimony, supporting legislation that calls for standing up a bipartisan commission on veterans health-care eligibility and benefits design.
As more vaccines become available, VA plans to offer free COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans receiving VA health care who want one. If you are a veteran who is not currently enrolled or receiving health care through VA, visit this web page to apply.
For additional information, contact an American Legion service officer who is specially trained to provide expert assistance, free of charge, to veterans and their families. To find a service officer near you click here.