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Fri Mar 19, 2021, 12:38 AM

Senate passes bill allowing VA to vaccinate all veterans, spouses

Source: Stars and Stripes

By NIKKI WENTLING STARS AND STRIPES

WASHINGTON -- The Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday evening that would order the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer vaccinations to any veteran who wants one, regardless of whether they are enrolled in VA health care.

Under the Saves Lives Act, veterans' spouses and caregivers would also become eligible for vaccines through the VA. The department is currently vaccinating only employees and veterans enrolled in VA health care, as well as some veteran caregivers.

"Vaccines are our best shot at ending this pandemic," said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. "Unanimous passage of Saves Lives Act brings us one step closer to our goal of providing free vaccination services to every veteran, spouse, child and caregiver at VA."
(Snip)

There are about 6 million veterans who actively use VA health care, as well as 450,000 employees. As of Wednesday, about 1.4 million veterans had been fully vaccinated by the VA, including slightly more than 1 million veterans. The legislation would add millions more people to the population that the VA is responsible for vaccinating. Dr. Richard Stone, the VA's acting undersecretary for health, said at the end of February that the VA had the ability to vaccinate between 350,000 to 600,000 people each week - about double the number it was vaccinating at the time.




Read more: https://www.stripes.com/news/us/senate-passes-bill-allowing-va-to-vaccinate-all-veterans-spouses-1.666209



Only about 60% of all veterans are eligible for VA health care- mostly those who have service connected ailments, or those who are low income. You may have read about several cases where veterans were recently denied vaccine, because only those eligible can get medical treatment from the VA.

This is needed. We need to push this through. It's H.R. 1276, the “Save Lives Act”, and is sponsored by Rep. Mark Takano.

The VA has the capability to vaccinate at twice the rate it currently is, and could vaccinate far more veterans if only it were legal for them to do so, and if adequate supplies of vaccine were made available to the VA for all veterans- not just the 60% who are eligible for regular VA care.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 01:17 AM

1. All veterans who served for at least 90 days during WWII, Korea, Vietnam,

and those enlisted after September 7, 1980, and served for at least 24 months are eligible for VA Healthcare. They did not have to serve in a war zone. You do not have to have any disability. Only those in groups 7 and 8 who have income above the maximum for their place of residence have a copay and that is a small amount, $15 primary care, specialty care $50, and tests like an MRI $50. Urgent care is $30. Hospital rates vary for group 7 90 days is $296.80 plus $2 a day and for group 8 it is $1484 plus $10 a day. For both groups added 90 days is half that amount. plus $2 or $10 a day. So the only veterans not covered are those that served after WWII and before Korea, after Korea and before Vietnam, and after Vietnam until September 8, 1980. Even if you have insurance you should have VA Healthcare because you only have to see your primary care doctor once a year.

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Response to marie999 (Reply #1)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 01:37 AM

2. That is not correct.

Unless you meet the stringent criteria, if you are Priority Group 8, subgroups including e, or g means you can’t get care.

Source: https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/priority-groups/

You're not eligible for VA health care benefits if we place you in one of these subpriority groups:

Subpriority group e
All of these must be true. You:

Have a non-compensable service-connected condition that we've rated as 0% disabling, and
Don't meet the criteria for subpriority group a or b above
Note: You're eligible for care for your service-connected condition only.

Subpriority group g
All of these must be true. You:

Don't have a service-connected condition, and
Don't meet the criteria for subpriority group c or d above


If you didn’t enroll prior to 2003, are not service connected, and are not low income, your priority group 8 e or g means you get nothing.


THAT IS WHY this bill is necessary.

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Response to James48 (Reply #2)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 02:05 AM

4. So everything I wrote was correct except that Group 8 subgroups e and g.

But Group 8 subgroups a, b, c, and d are allowed. The article states that 40% of all veterans can not get VA healthcare. Do you really think that 40% of all veterans are in group 8 subgroups e and g?

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Response to marie999 (Reply #4)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 02:11 AM

8. I said 60% of veterans are enrolled.

And roughly 40% cannot obtain care today.

That’s a fact. Yes, 40% of veterans are not enrolled today, and most of those not enrolled cannot obtain care, because they fall into sub categories that are non-service connected, non-disabled, not enrolled prior to 2003, and are over the poverty level to qualify under group 8. (e and g, or were earlier group 8’s who lost coverage when their income went up, or were otherwise no longer continuously enrolled.)

I didn’t make that stat up. That comes from the VA.

There are about 18 million veterans in the USA. Only about 8.7 milllion are enrolled in VA health care. The rest are not. And currently, only some of those can enroll and get care. Millions cannot.

That’s why we need this bill.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 01:53 AM

3. Which is managed worse?

the VA or the Post Office?

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Response to soryang (Reply #3)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 02:05 AM

5. Oh please.

The VA has some of the best medicine in the nation. It’s far better than much of the civilian private care world.

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Response to James48 (Reply #5)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 02:11 AM

7. the service from the VA has been steadily degraded in recent years

the vaccine rollout is inconsistent, you can't get accurate information, the policy changes from facility to facility. I used to work for the VA, it's going steadily downhill. As to comparing it to the private sector, that's a pretty low bar, but it looks like they're getting there.

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Response to soryang (Reply #7)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 07:25 AM

11. VA probably has improved since you left.

The vaccine rollout has been impressive and i have nothing about good things to say about the VA.

I do know the VA had a very bad reputation in the past. A VA hospital was a place one was sent to die, patients reeked of urine and were poorly cared for.

There have been some major upgrades in recent years to the VA hospital in In Iron Mountain where I go to and my eldest stepson who is a doctor at Mayo did a stint at the VA hospital in Milwaukee for some training while he was in medical school and he said he was impressed.

It's a 4 hour round trip to the VA hospital in iron Mountain and free transportation is provided. If I ever have to go to the bigger VA hospital in Milwaukee,, which is 5 hours away one way, transportation will be provided and it's free. Something one can usaully get in the private sector.

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Response to Kaleva (Reply #11)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 02:19 PM

13. I have more than thirty years experience going to VA facilities

in addition to working there for three years, quite a while back. What i noticed is that the quality of VA care has gone in cycles. Typically there are some improvements during democratic administrations and then regression during republican administrations.

I don't have time right now to write a research report on the history of this. The NY Times wrote this several months back:

That long and expanding litany of problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs has left analysts and some veterans questioning why Mr. Trump has tried to make his record there a centerpiece of his quest for a second term.

“The challenges at the V.A. are multifaceted,” Terri Tanielian, a senior analyst at the RAND Corporation who specializes in military and veteran health issues, said. “Recognizing that addressing these issues takes sustained leadership commitment, not sound bites, is essential if we are going to deliver on the promises to veterans at the V.A.”


Trump Cites the V.A. as a Central Achievement. But Troubles Simmer.
The department’s long litany of problems has left some questioning why President Trump is trying to make his record there a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/us/politics/trump-veterans.html?auth=login-google

I admit the article doesn't go into much depth, i had read better critiques elsewhere earlier, but the article suggests that more money does need to spent for the immediate providers and specialists, the system is decentralized, and the epidemic is obstructing progress on these issues.

I have been fortunate in decades past to meet and get excellent care from the VA. Unfortunately, I can't say that for the last few years. I know medical providers that I thought were excellent or above average, that were for administrative reasons hounded by the VA until they quit. With only one exception, the providers I have access to now, just go through the motions, don't really listen, and basically could care less.

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Response to soryang (Reply #13)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 03:36 PM

15. From what I've told, the VA had a very bad reputation during the Vietnam Era.

I'm told this by old-timers, Korean War vets and later, when we are riding the DAV van to the hospital. Generally, the opinion of the VA today is good compared to what it used to be.

Before, the VA hospital was a place where one was sent to die, the smell of urine was strong and attendant's had the reputation of being surly, uncaring and acted like they were doing one a big favor if they did something for you.

I can only speak of what I myself experience and from what I'm told directly by other vets who are in the VA health care system. A few of whom have been receiving VA care since the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

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Response to Kaleva (Reply #15)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 04:21 PM

16. I was there in the eighties

And I worked in adjudication as an advisor. At that point things were on the way up. I would get some of the "fat files" after I was trained, in other words, WWII, Korean conflict, and VN war era claims because i was the junior person. Some of these cases had been denied several times. The most troublesome cases were those vets claiming PTSD, because there was a lot of resistance to it by VA physicians and others in the field who frankly regarded it as a bs diagnostic category. Another problem area were the permanent and total disability claims, whether by numbers or the unemployability argument. "well he could sell tickets at a movie theater right?" I had the distinct impression that there was progress on PTSD treatment and compensation, and the P & T claims. I perceived this not just from the legal side but from reading the clinical records of vets chronologically.

I went back on active duty for six years and came back to the same office. There was a major change in the management associated with the change to the HW Bush administration. Some of the more liberal or democratic senior GS's I knew were gone. HW Bush had appointed a different attorney in charge of the body i worked for. The conservatives had the upper hand, they abandoned the policy of resolving reasonable doubt in favor of veterans, and the overwhelming number of claims were denied. It was a repressive atmosphere, people who tried to reopen or allow claims were regarded unfavorably, and outside of the PR, like the new COVA to try to get a handle on the arbitrary treatment of veterans, veterans were referred to as "parasites" by republican attorneys behind closed doors. Attorneys who had a higher tendency to reverse regional office determinations, increase ratings, reopen claims etc., were discriminated against and received poor ratings and the most difficult cases. I think they call it sandbagging.

I left in frustration, because where i worked the conservatives ruled even after Clinton was elected. As a vet using VA services, I received excellent treatment from VA providers during the Clinton administration and in the OOs. I would say i generally had no complaints until a couple of providers I had come to rely on were transferred away. My experience was good because they were good and they had imho the courage to buck the conservative bias that pervades the institutional leadership and if I may say so, physicians in general. There are always exceptions. I feel there has been an ongoing effort to privatize or outsource VA services. Associated with this there is less in house service, and an effort to economize on services which has degraded care to veterans. FWIW.



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Response to soryang (Reply #3)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 02:07 AM

6. Almost everything that is wrong with the VA healthcare system is because Congress refuses

to raise its money to hire the 40,000 doctors, nurses, and technicians whose positions are still vacant.

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Response to marie999 (Reply #6)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 02:22 AM

9. Where are earth do you get that ?

The VA can afford to hire.

The VA’s budget for 2021 is $243 BIllion, up $26 billion from 2020.

The problem isn’t money. It’s more about finding qualified medical people who want to work for the VA, and getting them on-board.

The VA is hiring big time and has been for several years. uSAJOBS.Com

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 05:51 AM

10. Hmmmm.... would have thought that

this bill would have gone through the last Congressional session

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 07:42 AM

12. Unity. Vaccination is winning! /nt

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Fri Mar 19, 2021, 03:06 PM

14. The House also passed it - next it heads to President Biden's desk for signature.

https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/congress-passes-bill-to-allow-va-to-vaccinate-all-vets-spouses-caregivers-1.666508


WASHINGTON – Congress approved a bill Friday that makes all veterans, as well as their spouses and caregivers, eligible for a coronavirus vaccine through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The House approved the legislation under unanimous consent. It passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday, and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.

“This bill is all about getting shots in the arms of more in the veteran community and allowing the VA to expand the great work it’s already doing to administer shots,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who introduced the bill. “This is great news for veterans, their spouses and caregivers, and puts us one step closer to normalcy.”
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More at link.

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