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'A Slap In The Face': Why Vets Are Shut Out Of Upcoming COVID Vaccine Lottery

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There's a statewide snub of veterans.

The Illinois Lottery is giving away millions to random people who got the COVID-19 vaccine.

But many vets are not eligible. CBS 2's Meredith Barack has the story.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 75,000 veterans in Illinois have been vaccinated at a VA facility.

But they and anyone else who got their shot at a VA facility or military base, have no shot at the jackpot announced by Governor JB Pritzker on Thursday.

"Korea veterans. Vietnam veterans. Desert Storm. The whole gamut."

Steven Holt describes who he saw when he received his COVID vaccine at the Aurora VA Clinic earlier this year.

When he heard that he and not a single one of those men and women would be eligible for Illinois' vaccine lottery, he was upset.

"It's just a slap in the face to any veteran," Holt said.

Representative Stephanie Kifowit, a veteran herself, said Holt isn't the only veteran who was upset after hearing they didn't have a chance at cold hard cash.

All because they got their shots at a Veterans Affairs facility.

"One of the things they were always so proud of is how quickly the VA got vaccinations out for the veterans, within a matter of weeks," said Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-84th.)

But because the federal government is its own entity, it only shares the number of people vaccinated through the VA, and not the names of who got the shots.

That excludes the any Illinois veterans who got their COVID shots through a VA facility.

And any active military members who received a shot on a base, like Kifowit's son.

"They actually cannot get a vaccine off of base," Kifowit said. "It has to be part of their active medical record."

Illinois isn't the first state to run into this issue.

Earlier this month, Oregon announced they would allow people to add their names to the state's vaccine lottery.

And if they are drawn, they'll have to show proof of vaccination.

In Washington state, the governor announced military members and veterans will get a lottery of their own, funded by federal-aid dollars.

Kifowit said she has been in touch with the Governor Pritzker's office, who assured her a similar solution was in the works for Illinois before the lottery's July 8 roll out.

Holt is hopeful that's the case, as he says a prize of that size would be life-changing for many.

"Somehow, they have to figure out the veterans can be included," Holt said. "This would be a really good shot in the arm for them if they were to be one of the lucky ones to win."

CBS 2 reached out to Governor Pritzker's office and IDPH to see what they'll be doing to ensure veterans and active duty military members are included, but so far, no response.

Gary J. Kunich of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs sent CBS 2 this statement:

VA officials are meeting today with the State of Illinois to work out our plan to transfer our data to them as rapidly as possible. We are now prepared to go live in any state that has a vaccine lottery just like we did the pilot in Colorado. VA simply delivers a deidentified marker (number) for each Veteran.


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