Getting their vaccinations at VA helped 11 Veterans in Washington state become winners in the state’s “A Heroes Thanks” [sic] COVID-19 vaccination lottery.
One Veteran was the winner of a $100,000 cash prize. Others won $250 or $100 gift cards in the three lotteries which were held in July and August.
Why the special lottery?
Washington held a state-wide COVID-19 vaccination lottery as a way to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.
However, because individuals who received their COVID-19 vaccinations through VA or the Department of Defense were not included in the state’s vaccination database, they could not participate in the statewide COVID-19 lottery.
To make sure those individuals weren’t left out, Washington state officials decided to hold “A Heroes Thanks” [sic] COVID-19 vaccination lottery.
Protecting patient privacy
The challenge for VA officials was to make sure that both the personal identification and health information of those Veterans that VA vaccinated were protected yet still make it possible for them to participate in the lottery.
VA’s Health Solutions staff came up with a process to pull patient information from VA databases. Then they assigned unique identifiers.
“By providing unique identifiers to lottery officials, we were able to protect both the personally identifiable information and the health information of our Veterans,” said Dr. Pam Belperio of VA’s Health Solutions.
Staff from Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 20) put these processes into action by pulling patient names and then assigning unique identifiers for all the Veterans who met the criteria that Washington state set for participation in the lottery.
These unique identifiers were then provided to Washington state officials for use in the lottery.
Notifying the winners
Once the drawings were held, Washington state officials notified Health Solutions staff of the winning unique identifiers. Health Solutions matched the unique identifiers with the names and called the winners to give them a confirmation code.
Winners were instructed to call a special official at the Washington lottery. There, someone would ask for the code to confirm they were a verified winner.
“Because of the additional steps we implemented to protect personal information, we worried that no one was going to believe us when we called to tell them that they needed to call a special number at the lottery with a special code,” said Dr. Lisa Backus, executive director for VA’s Health Solutions. “However, it all worked.”
When Veterans were contacted, they were excited to hear they had won.
“Many of the Veterans said they couldn’t believe it. Some told me they had never won anything before in their lives,” said Dr. Belperio.
Dr. Patrick Spoutz works in VISN 20. He felt relieved and satisfied knowing that his efforts helped Veterans both participate in the lottery and for some to even win.
“First, I felt a sense of relief that the process worked as intended,” Spoutz said. “I was also glad that I had a chance to play a small part in creating a happy surprise for specific Veterans.”
Get your COVID-19 vaccination
All Veterans – along with their spouses and caregivers, and CHAMPVA recipients – can get a COVID-19 vaccine at their local VA. Learn more about getting a COVID-19 vaccine at VA by visiting VA’s COVID-19 vaccines webpage.