Department of Veterans Affairs Releases Contractor Vaccination Guidelines

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

At the end of July 2021, the Biden administration announced that, in addition to federal government employees, onsite federal contractor employees will be required to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status. Visitors to federal buildings or federally controlled indoor workspaces and other individuals interacting with the federal workforce also will be required to submit a signed Certification of Vaccination form.

Any onsite contractor employee or visitor who declines to respond or responds that they are not fully vaccinated must (i) wear a mask regardless of the level of community transmission; (ii) physically distance; and (iii) provide proof of having received a negative COVID-19 test from within the previous three days if not enrolled in the applicable agency’s testing program. Federal agencies are required to establish a weekly or twice-weekly testing program for individuals not fully vaccinated. In addition, all onsite contractor employees and visitors, even those fully vaccinated, will be required to wear a mask in areas of high or substantial transmission.

On August 13, 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) updated its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy via Veterans Health Administration (“VHA”) Directive 1193, Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination Program for Veterans Health Administration Health Care Personnel. Effective October 8, 2021, the Directive applies to all VA medical facilities and requires all VHA Healthcare Personnel (“HCP”) to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or obtain an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

The Directive defines HCP to include:

      • “persons who work in or travel to VHA locations who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials;”
      • contractor personnel and persons “not directly involved in patient care but potentially exposed to infectious agents [e., COVID-19] that can be transmitted from HCP and patients;” and
      • “contractor personnel providing home-based care to Veterans and drivers and other personnel whose duties put them in contact with patients outside VA medical facilities.”

Noncompliance with the Directive could result in disciplinary action including removal from Federal service. Presumably, for contractor employees and visitors, noncompliance, at a minimum, will preclude entry into or removal from a VHA facility. If the noncompliance by contractor personnel prohibits the contractor’s performance of contractual obligations, it may result in a contract breach or early termination.

In total, the Directive is 22 pages in length. There will be questions regarding compliance. Contractors and visitors should try to anticipate potential issues and seek guidance from their contracting officer or the VA office they intend to visit (assuming such a visit is permitted) prior to any visit. Currently, the vaccination mandate applies to contractor employees working onsite at federal facilities, however, the administration is seeking “to apply similar standards to all federal contractors.”

This blog post was included in Government Executive’s Coronavirus Roundup: Questions on Vaccine and Testing Programs for Feds; COVID Oversight Committee Boosts Use of Analytics and AI” column on August 27, 2021.

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