Some vets, active duty military may not be eligible for CA's $116.5M COVID vaccine incentive plan

Jessica De Nova Image
Thursday, June 3, 2021
Some veterans may not be eligible for CA's $116.5M vaccine incentive
California is offering a big cash incentive to get vaccinated under the state's new $116.5 million plan. But some veterans and active duty service members may be excluded from that big cash reward.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- As California prepares for the rollout of its multi-million-dollar vaccine incentive program, veterans and those on active duty across the state are realizing their names may not be in the running for the prize money.

Jeffrey Breiten, a Marine Corps and Naval Reserve veteran, is with the California Council of Chapters of the Military Officers Association of America (CALMOAA).

Breiten said when he and a group of vets heard about the California Immunization Registry (CAIR) requirement they worried.

"We reached out to the governor's office hoping that maybe they could correct this oversight prior to rolling out this program, and it doesn't appear that will happen," Breiten said.

MORE | Newsom unveils $116.5 million COVID vaccine incentive plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a $116.5-million plan to incentivize more Californians to get the COVID-19 vaccine and reward those who are already vaccinated.

The incentive program's website clearly states that to be eligible, you must get vaccinated at any site in California that reports to CAIR.

Richard Beam, the director of public and community affairs with the Veterans Affairs Long Beach Healthcare System confirmed that VA Hospitals don't report to CAIR.

Beam sent the following statement to Eyewitness News:

Vaccine data for Veterans that have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine, are transmitted directly to the Centers for Disease Control as required by federal law covering patient privacy.

This means that anyone vaccinated in a VA Hospital does not have a chance to win the cash giveaways.

"They were rightfully angry with it, because they are California residents. They pay taxes," Breiten said of the veterans he has shared this information with.

They've served our nation, are active duty, or stepped up to help during the COVID-19 surge.

"We had a lot of active duty military assist California in the pandemic during the surge. They worked at the mass vaccination sites. The U.S.S. hospital ship Mercy came to the Port of L.A. to provide a hospital for overflow should it be needed, and the VA Hospitals actually opened up their doors to all local residents regardless of their status whether they served in the military or not during the height of the pandemic to assist local hospitals with the surge, and to learn that those health care workers are not even being entered into the drawing is just sad," Breiten said.

A spokesperson with the governor's office told Eyewitness News Wednesday that the office is actively trying to work on this and hope to a have a resolution before the program rolls out on Friday, June 4.

A source tells Eyewitness News the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is expected to put out a statement in the next few days addressing this issue as more states throughout the nation rollout their own COVID-19 vaccine incentive programs.

MORE | Will cash prizes convince more Angelenos to get vaccinated?

Vaccination sites around Southern California are hoping for a busy weekend now that state and local organizations are offering big incentives from cash prizes to sports tickets to encourage stragglers to get their COVID-19 shots.