Latest News

Bipartisan Bill Expanding Vaccine Access for Vets & Families Signed Into Law

All veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, and CHAMPVA recipients have access to VA COVID vaccination services under the SAVE LIVES Act


(U.S. Senate) – President Joe Biden today signed bipartisan legislation into law expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to veterans and their families under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), following efforts from Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-Ill.).


The Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse Act (SAVE LIVES Act) allows VA to provide COVID 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. The new law also urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adjust VA’s vaccine allocation based on this increased eligibility pool, as much as the supply chain allows. This legislation builds upon the VA VACCINE Act, legislation led by Chairman Takano and Ranking Member Bost.


“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,” said Chairman Tester. “This bipartisan bill follows through on our shared goal of getting more shots into the arms of as many veterans as possible, and I thank Senators Moran, Boozman, Blumenthal, and our House colleagues for helping me in our push to put this pandemic behind us and move our country forward.”


“Military service is family service, and that is why the VA and this committee aim to care for both veterans and their families,” said Ranking Member Moran. “I am grateful the President acted quickly to sign this legislation into law to make certain the VA has the freedom to vaccinate veteran spouses, non-enrolled veterans, caregivers, overseas veterans and others with excess COVID-19 vaccine supply. 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.”  


“Today, President Biden signed our vital legislation into law, ensuring that VA has the authority to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, caregivers, and veteran spouses who walk through its doors,” said Chairman Takano. “VA has proven itself as one of our country’s most effective vaccinators, but it’s clear VA needed additional authority to continue leading the effort to get as many shots into arms as possible. I’m grateful that Chairman Tester, Ranking Member Bost, and Ranking Member Moran joined me in quickly passing legislation to make sure that as vaccine supply increases, VA will be able to ramp up its vaccination efforts even more. No veteran should be turned away from getting a vaccine at VA—after today, that doesn’t need to be a concern. I know this is a heavy lift, but the strength of VA’s internal healthcare delivery system and the Department’s successful role in national vaccination efforts make this expansion possible. I look forward to working with VA to implement the SAVE LIVES Act successfully when vaccine supply increases.”

“I hope every veteran and their loved ones will get vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Ranking Member Bost. “This bill will give them, their spouses, and their caregivers that chance. I am proud of the work Chairman Takano, Chairman Tester, Ranking Member Moran and I did to get it across the finish line and am grateful the President signed it into law today. This gets us one step closer to normal and is a light at the end of the tunnel for millions of veterans and their families.”

he SAVE LIVES Act expands VA’s authority to provide vaccines to:

·       Veterans who are not eligible for enrollment in VA’s health care system, including veterans without compensable service-connected disabilities and veterans who have incomes above a certain threshold;

·        Caregivers of veterans who are enrolled in various VA home-based and long-term care programs;

·        Spouses of veterans; and

·        CHAMPVA recipients (spouses of permanently and totally disabled veterans or of veterans who have died from service-connected disabilities

Tester To Be New Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

Senator continues to fight for veterans in Montana and across the nation in new leadership role 

(U.S. Senate) – After years of serving Montana’s veterans and fighting to deliver quality care and benefits to the nation’s men and women in uniform, U.S. Senator Jon Tester will take over the gavel as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the new Congress. Tester will lead his first hearing tomorrow as Chairman on the pending nomination of Denis R. McDonough to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), and continue his partnership with Republican Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) who will serve as Ranking Member.

“Serving as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is an honor of a lifetime, and I’m grateful for the chance to lead the committee on behalf of Montana’s veterans and all who’ve served our nation proudly,” said Chairman Tester. “I’m looking forward to continuing the bipartisan partnership Senator Moran and I have built, and am ready to roll up my sleeves along with our committee members and veterans advocates to hold the VA accountable, cut red tape, and provide quality care and benefits to those who’ve sacrificed on behalf of our freedoms. Taking care of our veterans is a continuing cost of war, and I’m prepared to get to work in this new role to ensure Congress follows through on this sacred duty.” 

Tester has been a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee since he joined the Senate in 2007. For years, Tester has been a champion for veterans in the Senate, working with various Veterans Service Organizations to push critical initiatives such as the expansion of benefits and care for those exposed to Agent Orangethe Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Actthe Deborah Sampson Act, and the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans, Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update

COVID-19 Vaccine Update: The Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) is excited to announce that the first shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrived at our Fort Harrison VA Medical Center this morning!

The vaccine will be distributed to enrolled Veterans based on a risk stratification table. First, MTVAHCS frontline staff and our Community Living Center residents and staff will be vaccinated. Veterans who are considered highly vulnerable will be the next to receive the vaccine.

As you are identified by clinical staff to be within each risk level to receive the Moderna vaccine, a healthcare team member will contact you to schedule a vaccine appointment. MTVAHCS encourages all Veterans to receive a COVID-19 vaccination (the vaccine is not mandatory). We understand that you may have questions about a new vaccine. Please do not hesitate to send your healthcare team a secure message through MyHealtheVet or call 844-819-0833 to set up a time to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine will be administered in two separate doses, approximately one month apart. Recipients may experience a mild reaction to the first dose (injection site soreness, muscle aches, etc.) and possibly a greater reaction to the second dose (chills, nausea, headaches, fever, fatigue, etc.).

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, reference these COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs.

Army Proposes Limiting Retiree Burials in Arlington National Cemetery

As reported September 16 by Jim Absher for, the Army is proposing limiting the number of burials in Arlington National Cemetery, and retirees may be the first to be affected. A proposed rule published in the Federal Register seeks public comment on limiting interments, both burials and inurnments, in Arlington National Cemetery to only those who are retired, saw combat, received certain military awards, served as president or vice president, or were family members of otherwise qualified individuals.
Read More…

Jon Stewart Leads Renewed Fight on Benefits for Burn Pit Victims

In a September 15 story for Military Times, Leo Shane III reports that veterans advocates on Tuesday launched a new campaign for additional recognition and aid for troops exposed to toxic burn pit fumes during overseas deployments at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, saying time is running out to provide real help to the victims. “This is not about science, this is about money,” said comedian Jon Stewart in an emotional press conference on Capitol Hill featuring numerous families of dead and dying veterans whose rare illnesses aren’t officially recognized by federal officials as stemming from burn pit exposure.
Read More…