Robert McKean of Sarasota hasn’t needed the VA Health Care System, until now.
The 86-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who served during the Vietnam War era, says his post-service life has been good and he doesn’t need major medical care.
But McKean, like many older adults and the rest of the U.S. population, needs a COVID-19 vaccine.
He filled out an application under the impression that his name would be added to a list of veterans awaiting a vaccine provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
He simply wanted the potentially lifesaving shot to keep he and his wife, Olivia, safe.
McKean went to the VA to drop off his forms and they told him it would take about a week to get him into the system.
On Jan. 16, McKean got the bad news he was ineligible in a letter from the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System because of income limits. He got on the phone Thursday and was passed off to four different departments before he hung up.
The VA letter said McKean was assigned to “Priority Group 8g” (an assigned priority group consisting of higher income veterans) on Jan. 17, 2003. The VA suspended new enrollments of veterans assigned to this priority group, making McKean ineligible to enroll.
“We were both very upset,” Olivia McKean said. “My husband was so angry and upset that he hardly slept last night. He was so worked up about it. It was so wrong.”
Online, the McKeans quickly found other veterans going through the same situation who were denied the COVID-19 vaccine because of income limits.