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'Am I excluded?': Gov. Inslee answers Washington vaccine lottery questions from veterans

In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee blamed the federal government for not providing data needed to include veterans and active military personnel.

SPOKANE, Wash — As the first group of winners are being notified in the Washington COVID-19 vaccine lottery, Gov. Jay Inslee addressed the groups currently excluded. 

Washington residents vaccinated as part of federal programs, like at Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense clinics, say they put their lives on the line for the country. They have been left wondering why they can't take part in winning a life changing amount of money.

Many veterans got their shots through the VA and their names were not inserted into the state's vaccine database due to record-keeping systems differing from the Washington Department of Health. This means that anyone vaccinated at those clinics were left out of this week's drawing

The state has been able to get a raw number of how many vets have gotten shots, but not an actual list of names. That means at least vets are being counted in the quest for the state's goal of having 70% of those 16 and older vaccinated by the end of June. Inslee said about 150,000 have gotten at least one dose. However, without the list of names, they aren't eligible for the incentive lottery.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine was quick and easy for Navy veteran Mike Driscoll. The 79-year-old said the aftermath has left him feeling ignored by the state.

"Am I eligible, am I on the list?" Driscoll asked. "Or am I excluded?"

The logistics of including veterans in the lottery were addressed for the first time publicly.

"The people who received their vaccinations through the Department of Defense or the VA are not yet in the state's database because it hasn't been provided by the federal government," Inslee said. 

He claimed the state has been working to incorporate vets into the database for months, but that the federal government simply hasn't been able to provide the info they need. 

"They put out the information that says, 'hey, we want you to go get vaccinated,' but if you're vaccinated, and you belong in this group, you're not going to be eligible," Driscoll added.

Inslee said he is working on a solution.

"We will provide an incentive program so that the Department of Defense folks and the veterans are in some incentive program," the governor added. "We are still figuring out the exact dimensions of that. We're still trying to get information from the federal government. It will be easier for us to administer this if they are able to give us that information. But if they are unable or unwilling, we will have probably a stand-alone program for our folks in the military and our veterans. They're owed that. We're going to make sure that they get that."

Driscoll said that until this issue is resolved, he is out of the picture. The Department of Veterans Affairs said that all VA centers that serve Washington are working with Governor Inslee's office to make sure veterans are eligible.

If you want to check your records to see if your name is in the database, DOH officials say the best way to do that is through the records website. Again, it may take a few days after getting your vaccine before your information is processed on the site. You can also check your records over the phone, by calling 833-VAX-HELP (833-829-4357).

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