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WASHINGTON — The House unanimously approved legislation Tuesday night that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer coronavirus vaccines to all veterans, regardless of whether they’re enrolled in VA health care.
Under the bill, titled the VA Vaccine Act, caregivers of veterans, as well as veterans living abroad, would also qualify for vaccines through the VA. The legislation stipulates that veterans enrolled into VA health care would receive priority, and the VA will offer vaccinations to the other groups only if the vaccine supply is available.
“The bill gives VA the authority it needs to meet this moment,” said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill. “It is a lifeline for veterans and their caregivers.”
Bost and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., lead the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and introduced the bill, which has the support of national veterans’ organizations. The legislation must go to the Senate for approval.
On Tuesday, four senators introduced a broader version of the bill. In addition to all veterans, veteran caregivers and veterans living abroad, the Senate’s “Saves Lives Act” calls on the VA to vaccinate spouses of veterans, as well as recipients of the VA’s CHAMPVA program. The CHAMPVA program serves spouses and children of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related disability.