Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) released a statement following H.R. 1276, the SAVES LIVES Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden. Hayes became concerned about the issue of vaccinating spouses and caregivers after visiting the CT VA Healthcare System in West Haven and hearing it echoed repeatedly by veterans and spouses. She worked with colleagues to craft the legislation, and was an early supporter and cosponsor, which expands the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) authority to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans, their spouses, and caregivers.
“After visiting vaccination clinics held by the West Haven VA, and talking to veterans around Connecticut’s Fifth District, I identified that red tape was preventing far too many veterans and their caregivers from getting the life-saving vaccine,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “I took what I learned from these veterans back to Congress, and pushed Committee leadership for a solution. The result is a bipartisan solution that removes the bureaucracy and honors the sacrifice of our military families.”
“Congress has passed a new law that allows VA to soon offer COVID-19 vaccines to more?Veterans and?some?spouses?and caregivers?of Veterans,” said Alfred Montoya, Director of VA Connecticut Healthcare System. “At this time, VA still has a limited amount of vaccines and is working to determine how quickly we can begin to offer vaccines to?these?other?groups. To date, VA has successfully fully vaccinated over one million Veterans in a safe environment, and as we expand to all Veterans, we will take the same care to plan in a way that keeps these additional groups safe. We?appreciate everyone’s patience as we?prepare to offer more vaccines. Those interested in getting regular updates about COVID-19 vaccines at VA should?sign up to stay informed.”
Under the legislation, covered individuals will be:
- veterans who are not eligible to enroll in the VA health care system;
- specified veterans who are eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care abroad;
- family caregivers who are approved as providers of personal care services for veterans under the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers;
- caregivers of veterans participating in the VA's Program of General Caregiver Support Services; and
- caregivers of veterans participating in the VA's Medical Foster Home Program, Bowel and Bladder Program, Home Based Primary Care Program, or Veteran Directed Care Program.
The VA must prioritize the vaccination of (1) veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system, (2) veterans who fail to enroll but receive hospital care and medical services for specified disabilities in their first 12 months of separation from service, and (3) caregivers accompanying such prioritized veterans. Additionally, vaccines furnished abroad are authorized to be furnished in a geographic location other than a state regardless of whether vaccines are needed for the treatment of veterans with a service-connected disability (including those participating in a VA rehabilitation program).