A US Army veteran from Florida, 79-year-old Seymour Kagan, said he felt "disrespected" when his local Veteran Affairs (VA) clinic denied him the opportunity to receive a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine for free because his income is too high, Fox News reported Friday.
Kagan, who retired as captain of the US Army in 1969, is one of many military veterans of the state of Florida who has met obstacles while attempting to obtain vaccine inoculations from VA clinics, according to the report. Under federal law, one of the variables in deciding if they are entitled to receive their cost-free benefits is how much cash a veteran earns annually.
"I felt disrespected. It’s fine to hear words like ‘thank you for your service’ and they all say that, it’s a mantra," he told Fox News. "But when it comes to the actual practical assistance to a veteran, I’m 79 years old... I have certain respiratory limitations... I felt that if I needed the vaccine then and that’s the public policy, they should open it up to any veteran who has received an honorable discharge, regardless of their income."
The military veteran said that he applied for a free-of-charge vaccine shot in mid-January after he met with a fellow veteran who said he was inoculated by the VA. He then went to his local clinic in Sarasota, with the intention of getting one himself.
Kagan says he was told over the phone days later, after filling out paperwork, that he was not entitled to receive the vaccine in the clinic on the grounds that his annual income met the local cap of the VA. That figure reportedly starts at $43,670 for a single veteran in Sarasota County and then scales upwards depending on the number of their dependents.
"The president or someone in the VA should change the rule to reflect the pandemic and enlarge the vaccination program to any veteran," Kagan, a retired lawyer from Sarasota, said. "This would have the added benefit of increasing the distribution of the vaccine at a faster rate rather than going through the states -- it would also reduce the demand on the states of those people who are veterans who would get the shot directly through the VA clinic."
The VA said in a statement that it is "focusing efforts on the allotment of vaccines we have received for enrolled, eligible Veterans who are listed in our highest risk categories," but that it is also "working with the White House and FEMA to explore ways in which VA can assist with the Nation’s vaccination efforts, to include covering Veterans not currently enrolled for VA health care."
"Consistent with our legal authority and supply of vaccine, the VA would like to vaccinate as many Veterans as possible," the statement read.
Meanwhile, in trying to get a vaccine shot elsewhere, Kagan has reportedly been unsuccessful. And he's not the first veteran to share experiences of this sort.
Last month, according to local media, Paul Jacobs, a 91-year-old Army veteran, was also turned away by a VA clinic in West Palm Beach because of his salary.
"It’s not fair that they turned us away," he said, noting that he was one of 16 veterans who were denied vaccine eligibility. "It was just a shame that veterans were discriminated against because of their income."
Just like Jacobs, a 76-year-old US Navy Vietnam war veteran, Bob Hulsy, also was refused a free shot of the vaccine.
"Too much income, no shot," he said.
According to the outlet, an official of the West Palm Beach local VA clinic said that they know that people are "frustrated" by these denials but "this rule is set by Congress. It’s not a decision made at the local level."
The US leads the world in the number of people infected with coronavirus and the number of deaths. According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, which summarizes data from federal and local authorities across the globe, as well as the media and other open sources, over 26.7 million people have already been infected in the country, while more than 457,000 have died.
A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.