Colorado veterans eligible for $1 million vaccine lottery through VA information-sharing pilot

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — Veterans who received their COVID-19 vaccinations at a Veterans Affairs medical center will be eligible for Colorado’s $1 million vaccine sweepstakes. 

VA officials confirm to the FOX31 Problem Solvers they’ve reached an agreement with Colorado to ensure tens of thousands of veterans will be included in the drawing. 

Veterans like Eric Davis, who received his vaccine at a VA medical center, have not been showing up in the state’s Colorado Immunization Information registry, which is kept separate from the federal registry used to track vaccines.

“When I went to the state’s database to see if my information was in there, I kept getting a screen which said, ‘Unable to find user, unable to find user,” Davis said. “So that’s when I knew there was definitely an issue.”

Here’s the problem: State and federal vaccinations are kept in separate databases, which are never linked to one another. 

A VA spokesperson said they do not have an agreement with states to share veteran data on vaccinations without receiving written consent from each individual veteran, which “was considered too cumbersome.”

That means tens of thousands of Colorado veterans were not eligible for the sweepstakes until the FOX31 Problem Solvers alerted the VA to the issue last week.

“It’s frustrating,” Davis said. “Obviously, it’s understandable that the state systems don’t talk to the federal systems and vice versa, but I wanted to make sure all of those federal systems were being accounted for in this upcoming drawing.”

A VA spokesperson said they have “developed a plan to submit a de-identified number to the state for each veteran who received a vaccination through the VA. Those numbers were submitted to the state as entries in the lottery.”

If a number is pulled, the state will contact the VA, who will then contact veteran who was selected.

That veteran will then have to sign a release to give their information to the state to claim the prize. 

A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed a list of 35,000 people was received by the Tuesday night deadline.

According to the VA, the Rocky Mountain Network is the first network to provide this type of solution, meaning veterans who received their vaccines in other states where lotteries have been held may not been entered. 

“This is a pilot where we are evaluating our ability to protect information yet allow veterans the capability to participate in these state-sponsored events,” a VA spokesperson said in a statement. “We anticipate having a decision soon on whether we can use this approach in other states.”

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