Crist VA Vaccine Effort Clears House

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) released a statement announcing unanimous House passage of H.R.1276, the VA VACCINE Act of 2021, legislation expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Veterans at the VA. Last month, Congressman Crist introduced Vaccines for Veterans to allow any Veteran who has served honorably to receive the vaccine, and has been a champion of the effort to vaccinate all Veterans following reports detailing Florida Vets being turned away at VA facilities across the state due to bureaucratic red tape.

“I’m proud that the House has taken decisive action to do right by Florida’s Veterans. I introduced Vaccines for Veterans Act because Veterans were calling my office saying they tried to get their coronavirus vaccine at the VA but were turned away,” said Rep. Crist. “Anyone who honorably served to protect our nation should be able to get a shot now. Here at Bay Pines, nearly 15,000 Veterans cannot get a vaccine because of bureaucratic red tape, and that’s not right. I thank Chairman Takano for his leadership, and I call on the Senate to do its job and swiftly send the VA VACCINE Act to President Biden’s desk.”

Currently, only Veterans with a service-connected disability rated above 0% or who make under a certain income threshold can receive the vaccine, leaving out many Veterans who may not have a service-connected disability but who have other comorbidities that leave them vulnerable to COVID-19. A member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Crist raised the issue with VA leadership, who testified that Congress would have to act to fix it.

The VA VACCINE Act of 2021 provides this authority, allowing facilities with adequate vaccine supply to vaccinate all Veterans regardless of whether or not they would normally qualify for VA care. The bill also allows the VA to vaccinate recognized veteran caregivers who are likewise prevented from receiving the vaccine at the VA. Following House passage last night, H.R.1276 goes to the Senate for consideration.  

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