Vaccines for Veterans: How is the VA handling the COVID vaccine rollout?

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UPDATE: The VA has sent a statement about vaccinations, that statement has been added to the story in italics.

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — For many eligible New Yorkers getting an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t been easy. The supply from the federal government has been lower than expected in the state, and the signup process has been confusing for many, especially for seniors.

The VA system works separately from the state, and according to one local Vietnam Veteran, the process was simple.

“Out of the blue, I got a phone call, and five days later, I got my shot,” Keith Barney said. “I didn’t have to do anything.”

The VHA is the largest integrated healthcare system in the U.S. So far, they’ve vaccinated around 240,00 employees and 250,000 veterans.

“Those eligible for care at VA are eligible for the Moderna COVID Vaccine,” Peter Potter, Public Affairs Officer for the Stratton VA Medical Center, said in a statement to News10 ABC.  “Once enrolled in VA care, Veterans will be called to set up an appointment based on CDC/VA  guidance, which currently includes Veterans 75-years-of-age and older.”

The Albany-Stratton VA is one of 152 VA Medical Centers across the country. The local facilities receive doses directly from the Veteran’s Health Administration. The VHA works with distributors—Pfizer and Moderna— directly with the help of the Federal Government and the CDC.

“It’s like clockwork how things are determined,” Darlene Delancey “We’ve been preparing a long time for emergencies, pandemic emergencies, and they have it down pat.”

DeLancey said clear communication with their Veterans and the national effort put forth by the VHA is to thank for Barney’s vaccine experience.

“They said they were reaching out to their Veterans 75 and older,” said Barney. “I said absolutely.”

Barney said communication was clear and easy because the VA insisted on the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach. Because of that, Barney didn’t have to figure out which phase he was in or schedule his appointment online.

“It’s important to note that if a Veteran was enrolled but hasn’t utilized VA services in 3 years, they are dropped from the rolls and need to re-enroll to be eligible for VA care again, ensuring eligibility is still met and records are properly updated,” Potter stated.

For Veterans who are unsure about their eligibility for VA healthcare coverage and benefits, Potter recommended that Veterans ensure eligibility for care “by visiting www.Albany.va.gov and using the “Become a Patient” link or by calling the Business Office, also known as the Veteran Service Center, to set up an appointment or ask about any information needed such as ones DD-214.”

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