All U.S. veterans, along with their spouses and caregivers, will now be able to gain access to the vaccine “to the extent that such vaccines are available,” regardless of previous eligibility requirements.
“This morning, I signed the SAVE LIVES Act into law — expanding the VA’s authority and allowing them to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans, their spouses, and caregivers,” Biden said on twitter.
The law also directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adjust the VA’s allotted vaccine supply based on the increased pool of recipients.
“This new law expands options for where veterans and their families can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, ensuring that every veteran, spouse, and caregiver will have access to the protection they need from VA,” Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement Wednesday. “This bipartisan bill follows through on our shared goal of getting more shots into the arms of as many veterans as possible.”
Prior to the president’s signature Wednesday, only veterans enrolled in the VA were eligible to receive the vaccine.
Nearly 1.6 million veterans have been vaccinated so far, according to data provided by the VA. But there are an estimated 18 million veterans in the U.S., meaning less than 10 percent have received the vaccine.
“Military service is family service, and that is why the VA and this committee aim to care for both veterans and their families,” Ranking Member Jerry Moran, R-Kan. said. “While the VA will continue to prioritize vaccinating VHA enrolled veterans with its allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine, this legislation will help further protect our veterans and their families.”