WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Veterans over 70 years old have been denied the COVID-19 vaccine through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs because they don’t meet certain requirements.
U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Florida, is now urging the VA to make the vaccine available to all veterans who qualify right now with their state and CDC guidelines.
There are eight priority groups the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is using to determine who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
And if you don’t meet the criteria or fall into one of those groups, the VA is telling veterans to sign up for the vaccine with the county.
"Says when you started, when you finished. It has your service number," said 79-year-old U.S. Army veteran Robert Caggiano.
Caggiano said he went to the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Center with all of his military information. Suffering from a heart condition, he said he thought he would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
"But I'm not a veteran, enough of a veteran, to get a COVID shot. Doesn’t make any sense," Caggiano said.
Caggiano was told that because he only served six months of active duty, his six years in the Army Reserves does not qualify him to get the vaccine through the VA.
"I mean, I didn’t serve on activity duty for two years but I still put in six and a half, six years of my life. And I thought I should be able to get a shot. I think all veterans should be able to get a shot," Caggiano said.
Other veterans like Caggiano who don’t receive benefits at the VA and do not fit in eight priority groups defined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are also not eligible for the vaccine right now.
Rep. Mast and eight other members of Congress are urging the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to lift those restrictions.
In a letter to the acting secretary they wrote, "For as long as the federally administered COVID 19 program is providing vaccination at no cost to patients, VA medical facilities should provide those vaccinations at no cost to veteran patients in accordance with CDC and state guidelines."
Caggiano said the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Center told him to try to get the vaccine through the state or county.
"It's frustrating cause I have to do what everyone does. Everyone’s frustrated," Caggiano said.