VA accepts governor’s executive order to share vaccination data with state, allowing veterans to use Excelsior Pass

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs confirms to NewsChannel 9 that the agency will accept Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive order directing the sharing of vaccination data.

Until now, veterans vaccinated at the Syracuse VA or other VA medical centers in New York were blocked from using the state’s Excelsior Pass because federal law wouldn’t allow the VA to share the necessary records with NY State databases.

The federal spokesperson writes: “The Governor’s executive order establishes the legal basis VA needs to provide the information that will allow individuals vaccinated at VA to receive the Excelsior pass. We are working through the process of transferring the information.”

On Thursday, Scott Shannon, a Navy veteran who lives in the Town of Clay, spoke with NewsChannel 9’s Your Stories team after he was unable to access records of his vaccinations in the state’s Excelsior Pass app.

The app allows people to load their vaccine records onto their smartphone as proof if required. Each person’s app creates a custom code that’s scannable by organizations checking vaccine status.

After it didn’t work, Shannon, who needs vaccine proof to work his retirement job at SUNY Oswego hockey games, called the state program’s help desk.

In an interview with NewsChannel 9, he recalled the conversation after a customer service clerk’s several attempts at finding his record: “She goes ‘I still can’t find anything that you’re vaccinated in New York.’ She goes ‘Where do you get it?’ I told her the Syracuse VA. That’s when she had her moment. She goes: ‘Ahhh! That explains everything.'”

Acknowledging the information is not shared with state governments, a spokesperson for the Syracuse VA writes: “Each Veteran that we vaccinate is issued a COVID Vaccination record card that lists the dates and VA location Veteran was vaccinated. That information is also entered in the Veterans Medical Record.”

He adds that veterans can also access their information online.

Shannon has been bringing his hard-copy card instead and will continue to, but prefers to use the app for ease and as a backup.

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