Nearly every COVID-19 death in the Veteran community and U.S. as a whole is entirely preventable through getting a vaccine, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said July 31 at the DAV National Convention in Tampa.

With COVID-19 cases rising with the Delta variant, McDonough said 99% of those dying from COVID-19 right now are unvaccinated.

“Almost every death from COVID from this day forward is entirely preventable,” he said.

The secretary emphasized the SAVE LIVES Act. All Veterans, their spouses and their caregivers can visit VA and receive a free vaccine. He encouraged Veterans to get the shot if they haven’t already.

“We’ve already lost thousands of Veterans to this deadly disease and now the Delta variant is causing an exponential increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths once again,” McDonough said. “That’s why everyone needs to be vaccinated.”

VA recently mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for Title 38 VA health care employees. This includes physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors. Anyone who works in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visits VHA facilities or provides direct care to those VA serves has eight weeks to get vaccinated.

“That’s the only way we can end this pandemic and return to a normal life,” he said.

Return to normal

While he said Americans want to return to normal, he emphasized that VA won’t necessarily go back to pre-pandemic ways.

“At VA, for example, we shouldn’t go back to the old way of doing things, because the work we’ve done to respond to the pandemic has forged us into a stronger, better department for our Veterans,” he said.

The secretary also said trust scores for the Veterans Health Administration rose to 90% in 2021. These scores represent a 5% increase since 2017. And he noted that telehealth and tele-appeals give Veterans added options, which won’t go away once the pandemic ends.

“So, as we look to the future, we’re not trying to build a VA that goes back to the old normal,” he said. “With your help, we’re going to continue to do better for our Vets. We’re going to continue to be better for our Vets.”

DAV helping Veterans

McDonough cited several examples of how DAV helps Veterans. For years, the benefits and health care that Veterans earned through their service were tied to annual government appropriations. Because of this, there were annual budget fights and government shutdowns.

McDonough also highlighted other organizational successes, like DAV’s Service Team, which stood up a national phone system when the pandemic hit. Because of DAV’s work, it helped Veterans and families file nearly 140,000 benefits claims in the last year. DAV established a COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Fund, providing $2 million dollars to Veterans in need. The organization’s volunteer drivers also logged almost 10 million hours, providing 243,000 rides to VA healthcare facilities.

Because DAV provides these rides, the secretary said Veterans like William Eserkaln can receive the care they need. Through DAV, Erserkaln receives rides that help ensure he arrives safely at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

“All of that work translates into the one statistic that matters most: lives saved and improved, by the work we do together,” the secretary said. “In the time when disabled Veterans like William needed us most, DAV and VA rose to the occasion – and we did it together.”

Learn more

To learn about COVID-19 vaccines at VA, visit

Visit DAV’s website at to learn about free rides to VA medical centers.

By Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team.

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Published on Aug. 2, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.9 min.

Views to date: 458


  1. Dale Cowger August 26, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    Fake facts quoted in this article with no documentation. It is still a free country, and I will choose what I want to do. Fact: politicians are crooked. Proof: Just look around you and focus on Washington D.C.

  2. Clay Allan Coker August 21, 2021 at 10:51 am

    Yeah, and nearly every veteran suicide is preventable as well but we have seen how the federal government handles that. A study needs to be done to see how many veterans have PTSD just from dealing with the VA bureaucracy or you could just build more VA cemeteries.

    • David August 24, 2021 at 8:43 pm

      To Bad VA Bureaucracy and Red Tape isn’t Preventable for Most Veterans who Sacrificed So Much for Their Benefits?
      Living the Lie of Disillusionments of a Wonderful VA Health Care System is Just that For a Great Deal of Veterans.
      A Facade of Smoke and Mirrors. Follow the Money Flow of Who Benefits the Most.

  3. Tom Doyle August 10, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    My suggestion is if you are offered a Covid -19 shot and refuse, then WHEN you get the virus; medical attention should be DENIED !! Our medical personal have already endured enough and deserve a break.

    • Dale August 26, 2021 at 2:55 pm

      Bah, humbug.

  4. Robert Strong August 7, 2021 at 11:43 am

    So why are you censoring people?

  5. George Foely August 5, 2021 at 11:24 am

    Why don’t yuo have Moderna?

  6. Arthur Kahn August 5, 2021 at 10:17 am

    Has anyone had a response regarding obtaining a QR code associated with their vaccinations? I too , like an earlier post, have not been able to get the code through the recognized state site.

  7. Janos Gereben August 4, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    VA does a superb job with the vaccine, I got mine at SF/VA in January-February.

    I have one concern though, and would like to call this to your attention.

    When California set up a Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record Center, I entered my record… and received a response that my vaccination is not in the database. I tried this several times, receiving the same response.

    Also tried to question of the State database is connected with the VA and the CDC (whose paper record I was given at the VA). Still waiting for an answer.

    My concern is not about myself because I have the needed documentation. I wonder IF there is no data-sharing between the VA and the states, thousands of vaccinated veterans may be unrecognized when they need state acknowledgment. Please look into this.

  8. Michael Confield August 4, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    It is too bad that the immunocompromised cannot get a third shoot to protect them. I am so tired of waiting for the CDC guidance.

  9. Billy August 4, 2021 at 7:59 pm

    99% based on what actual facts?

    • Robert Strong August 5, 2021 at 1:24 pm

      No facts. Just hyperbole.

  10. James Gouttierre August 4, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    I am already seeking early information on availability of 3rd covid shots for willing veterans and caregivers

Comments are closed.

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