VA OCONUS Connection

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VA OCONUS Connection

March 29, 2021

SAVE LIVES Act: Expansion of COVID-19 Vaccinations to all Veterans, their Spouses and Caregivers

covid vaccine

SAVE LIVES Act allows VA to soon provide COVID-19 vaccinations to all Veterans, their spouses and caregivers

March 24, 2021, 03:41:00 PM

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed the SAVE LIVES Act into law, expanding VA’s legal authority to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all Veterans, regardless of their VA health care enrollment status, as well as Veteran spouses, caregivers and some beneficiaries. 

The SAVE LIVES Act removed some of the legal limits on the medical care VA can provide to Veterans, based on health care eligibility and priority groups

The expanded authority depends on readily available COVID-19 vaccine supply and requires VA to continue to prioritize vaccinations and healthcare delivery for our nation’s Veterans enrolled in VA care. 

“The SAVE LIVES Act increases the number of individuals who are eligible to get lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines from VA from 9.5 million to more than 33 million,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Meeting the task of vaccinating this expanded population will be a tremendous undertaking for the VA and will require a significant increase in our allocation of vaccine supply, but I am confident that VA’s workforce is up to the task.” 

VA is providing COVID-19 vaccinations to Veterans and employees per its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. As of March 24, VA has fully vaccinated 1,594,812 individuals, including Veterans, VA employees and federal partners.

The next steps in VA’s prioritized expansion efforts are to offer the vaccine to all enrolled Veterans – approximately 9.5 million – followed by those outlined in the bill, as vaccine supply permits:

  • Non-enrolled Veterans as defined in the new legislation, including those without service-connected disabilities and who have incomes above VA’s threshold.
  • Overseas Veterans who rely on the Foreign Medical Program.
  • Veteran caregivers who are enrolled in either the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers or the Program of General Caregiver Support Services.
  • Veteran caregivers enrolled in certain Geriatrics and Extended Care Programs, such as Veteran Directed Care, Bowel and Bladder, Home Based Primary Care and VA’s Medical Foster Home Program.
  • Civilian Health and Medical Programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs recipients.
  • Veteran spouses.

In March and April 2021, VA will conduct pilots of COVID-19 vaccination for individuals specified in HR1276 at select VA medical centers. These pilots will work through critical steps in the process including communications, operations including space and staffing, systems for registration, enrollment, and scheduling, documentation, and data transmission. 

To read this article in its entirety, visit: 

 SAVE LIVES Act Press Release

VA is reviewing the recently approved legislation and will provide additional implementation guidance as it becomes available. 

Got Questions?  Contact us! 


Do you have questions about your pending VA compensation claim?  The Pittsburgh RO is charged with the unique special mission of processing claims for Veterans residing in most foreign countries (with the exception of the Philippines).  You can schedule a phone or virtual interview with a representative from the Pittsburgh VA Regional Office:

Status of Operations:

Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) Offices

Both the Germany and Korea BDD offices are open for in-person assistance, by appointment only.  

Landstuhl, Germany 

Camp Humphreys, South Korea 

As always, Veterans can continue to get information about benefits or file a claim for benefits by visiting our website at Veterans with claims specific or other questions may request information via Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS) or by telephone at 1-800-827-1000, or 412-395-6272 for Veterans outside the US.

Attention Discharging Service Members! 

Did you know you can file a disability claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) Program while you're stationed overseas?  

To qualify for compensation, service members must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 180 to 90 days from discharge
  • Be available for 45 days form your claim submission to attend any examinations
  • Provide a copy of your current Service Treatment Records (STRs)

For more information, please contact the BDD Office nearest you!

Update: Overseas Military Service Coordinators

Due to COVID-19, Overseas Military Service Coordinators (OMSCs) will be extending virtual support operations to overseas Veterans, Service members, and their dependents through October 1, 2021. OMSCs will be responding to e-mails and arranging phone interviews for those seeking assistance with all VA benefits.

We invite all Veterans, Service members, and dependents who would like to speak to a VA representative about VA benefits to send your contact information to the email address listed for your location to set up a virtual appointment with an OMSC. 

Veterans residing in European countries: OMSCGER1.VBAVACO@VA.GOV

Veterans residing in Asian countries: OMSCJAPANOK.VBAVACO@VA.GOV

Did you Know

New Service available through VA.Gov

All active duty Service members (SMs) can now submit their Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) on  Any active duty SM that submitted an intent to file (ITF) on eBenefits before 9pm on 1/20/21 will have one year to finish finishing that claim on eBenefits.  All other SMs will see a message on eBenefits to go to to submit their claim.   

Online Services Available with the Social Security Administration

Regardless of whether you receive benefits from Social Security or not, there are a myriad of online services available through your secure my Social Security account. 

If you do not currently receive benefits, you can:

  • Request a replacement Social Security card.
  • Review your earnings history and see an estimate of your future Social Security benefits.
  • Compare benefit amounts depending on what age you start receiving benefits.
  • Apply for retirement benefits when you are ready.
  • Check the status of your Social Security application.

If you already receive benefits, you can:

  • Get a benefit verification or proof of income letter.
  • Request a replacement Social Security or Medicare card.
  • Set up or change direct deposit.
  • Change your address.
  • Get a replacement Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099).
  • Opt-out of certain mailed notices.

Your personal my Social Security account includes a secure Message Center where you can receive sensitive communications.  For example, you can view your annual cost-of-living adjustments before you would normally receive them in the mail.  You will receive both mailed and online notices unless you opt-out of receiving notices by mail that are available online. 

Create your personal my Social Security account today at

Visit to review other available online Social Security resources.   

*Article provided by Josh Grant, Social Security Assistant District Manager in Pittsburgh, PA

Upcoming Live Virtual Events

The Veterans Breakfast Club's live virtual Veterans storytelling programs bring together Veterans from across the nation and beyond.   This is a great opportunity to virtually connect with your fellow Veterans! Visit the link below for additional information and a schedule of their live virtual events!   

Veterans Breakfast Club

Additionally, a variety of virtual outreach events are being offered. To view the full list of virtual offerings, visit the below link:


Check Your Claim Status at VA.Gov

In November 2018, VA began migrating VA websites into a single, unified, Veteran-centric platform under a name Veterans recognize:  Many Veterans are likely familiar with eBenefits, which is still available during the migration to During this time, Veterans may utilize eBenefits or

VA is continuously updating and adding more functionality to the website. With just one click, you can access the most important information Veterans need and will have one location to securely log in to access personalized information.


  • The top navigation on every page will allow you to log into your existing accounts using your MyHealtheVet, DS Logon, or an credential. If you do not have an existing account, you can create one using, a secure VA approved identity credential.


  • redesigned the view of claim status to make the process simpler to follow, to easily identify information requested, and to allow users to quickly review the status of their claim. While it looks different than claim status in eBenefits, the information about your claim is accurate.
  • Although claim status functionality displays the information differently than eBenefits, both sites contain correct information. eBenefits displays an eight-step claim process, whereas displays the process in just five steps.


  • To contact the helpdesk, call 1-800-698-2411.


  • Modifications are underway to allow a compensation or pension award recipient to remove any dependent online and ensure such removal is effective within 60 days of the elected removal. 



Tele-counseling is another option for you to receive services. You may request tele-counseling for your initial appointment as well as follow up appointments throughout your participation in the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VRE) program.

This allows you to effectively communicate with your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) without meeting in person.   You will only need a webcam in your computer or mobile device to use this option. If you are interested in tele-counseling, please contact your VRC. Your VRC will work with you to schedule an appointment and will send a link for you to access the meeting.

Foreign Medical Program (FMP)

The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care benefits program for U.S. Veterans who are residing or traveling abroad and have VA-rated, service-connected disabilities. Under FMP, VA assumes payment responsibility for certain necessary health care services received in foreign countries and associated with the treatment of service-connected disabilities, or any disability associated with and held to be aggravating a service-connected condition. Additionally, VA may authorize necessary foreign medical services for any condition for a Veteran participating in the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program (38 U.S.C. 31).

For more information, to include submitting claims for reimbursement, please visit here.

VA Welcome Kit

Whether you’re just getting out of the service or you’ve been a civilian for years now, the VA Welcome Kit can help guide you to the benefits and services you’ve earned.

Based on where you are in life, your VA benefits and services can support you in different ways. Keep your welcome kit handy so you can turn to it throughout your life—like when it’s time to go to school, get a job, buy a house, get health care, retire, or make plans for your care as you age.

Feel free to share this guide with friends or family members who need help with their benefits too. Download your VA Welcome Kit and print out copies for yourself and others!

Veteran Crisis Line

Crisis feels different for everybody and can be caused by a wide range of situations before, during, or after military service.  The Military Crisis Line is staffed by caring, qualified responders from VA — some of whom have served in the military themselves.

Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1), online chat and text (838255).

You can visit this link to see how Veterans, Service members or their loved ones can reach VCL from Europe, Korea and Afghanistan.

  • In Europe call 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118 *
  • In Korea call 0808 555 118 or DSN 118
  • In Afghanistan call 00 1 800 273 8255 or DSN 111

* In Europe, toll-free service may not be available through all carriers or in all countries

Help Us Spread the Word

Please encourage Veterans residing abroad with whom you come in contact to subscribe to “Veterans Abroad” to receive bulletins and information specific to Veterans residing abroad. 

Subscribe here

Feedback Requested

We’d love to hear your feedback regarding the VA OCONUS Connection!  We want to provide the information you need - please tell us what topics you would like addressed in the future.

*The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Veterans Affairs of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized VA activities, the Department does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided with the intent of meeting the mission of the Department. Please let us know about existing external links which you believe are inappropriate and about specific additional external links which you believe ought to be included.