Biden signs bill allowing all veterans, military spouses and caregivers to receive COVID-19 vaccine

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed into law the SAVE LIVES Act which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide coronavirus vaccinations to all U.S. veterans, regardless of eligibility. 

"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 wrote on Twitter. 

The Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act was originally introduced by Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Jon Tester, Ranking Member Sen. Jerry Moran and Sen. Richard Blumenthal. 

The legislation provides 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, according to a statement from Boozman.

The act also expands the VA’s authority to provide vaccines to individuals not previously eligible for vaccine enrollment. 

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"I’m pleased the Senate recognized the need to quickly pass the SAVE LIVES Act and harness the great work the VA is doing. By expanding its authority to vaccinate all veterans, their spouses and caregivers, we can protect the men and women who have sacrificed so much for all of us and speed up the return to normalcy for everybody," Boozman said. 

Before the legislation was signed into law, the VA only offered COVID-19 vaccines to veterans who receive care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and designated primary and secondary family caregivers who are enrolled in the department’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), according to the VA website.

The passing of the bill comes after the VA announced it was allocating more money to veterans homes across the country to improve the quality of care and services. 

On Tuesday, the VA announced it will be granting $1 billion to State Veterans Homes operating across the country.

The department says it hopes to ensure residents continue to receive the highest quality of care. 

"Too many Veterans residing in State Veterans Homes have suffered greatly during this challenging pandemic and it’s vital that we do everything within our power to help them through these tough times," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. "We are working to ensure our Veterans are protected and that their state-run homes are well equipped for the challenges ahead."