Politics

Congress Sends Boozman-Led Initiative Enhancing Veterans Access to COVID-19 Vaccine to President’s Desk

SAVE LIVES Act one step away from providing COVID vaccination services at VA to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, and CHAMPVA recipients after unanimously passing House

WASHINGTON– Congress is sending President Joe Biden a bipartisan bill to be signed into law based on input Arkansas veterans shared with U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).

The House of Representatives on Friday followed Senate action and unanimously passed the Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act introduced by Boozman, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The legislation would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide no-cost COVID-19 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 SAVE LIVES Act is all about getting shots in the arms of more in the veteran community and allowing the VA to expand the great work it’s already doing to administer shots. I’m pleased my colleagues understood the urgency to quickly approve this legislation and get it to the president’s desk. This is great news for veterans, their spouses and caregivers, and puts us one step closer to normalcy,” Boozman said.

“Unanimous passage of our bipartisan bill means we’re one step away from ensuring that every veteran, spouse, and caregiver in this country has access to a vaccine from VA,” said Chairman Tester. “This legislation is a critical step in reaching our common goal of saving more lives and getting our economy back on track as quickly and safely as possible. I thank Senators Moran, Boozman, Blumenthal, and our House colleagues for joining me in our effort to provide veterans and their families with the protection they need to get through this pandemic, and I urge the President sign this bill into law without any delay.”

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).

The legislation is the result of feedback Boozman heard from Arkansas veterans. The senator shared the concerns of Natural State veterans with a VA official during a committee hearing last month. Under questioning from Boozman, Dr. Richard Stone, Acting Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), testified that legislation is needed to authorize an expansion of the VA’s vaccine distribution beyond individuals enrolled in VHA programs.

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