Veteran services

Veterans Affairs denies life-saving lung transplant to unvaccinated veteran

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has denied a life-saving lung transplant to a US Army veteran because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

James Jooyandeh’s requests for a transplant recommendation and religious exemption from the vaccine were recently denied by the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Wisconsin, where Jooyandeh has been treated for several years.

Jooyandeh, a former US Army tank commander, suffers from an advanced stage of pulmonary fibrosis.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you lung transplantation as a treatment option due to your refusal to receive recommended routine health care, including your vaccinations, which is an absolute contraindication to transplantation. at our center,” wrote Jooyandeh’s primary care physician, Dr. Samir Sultan, a transplant pulmonologist at Wisconsin VA Hospital, and Dr. James Maloney, chief of surgical services at Veterans Affairs Hospital.

In an exclusive interview with The EpochTimes, Jooyandeh and his wife Deborah told The Epoch Times that they are both against the COVID-19 vaccine because fetal cell lines were used in the development and testing of the vaccine and in because of the potential health risks of the vaccine.

“One of the side effects that just came out was interstitial lung disease and that’s what we have,” Deborah Jooyandeh told The Epoch Times, “so why would he take a vaccine that causes what kills him? ?

Jooyandeh said he also felt “offended” by the very administration he served for so long. After a 13-year tour in the US Army, Jooyaneh served eight years in the National Guard and five years in the Army Reserve.

Now 52, ​​as a civilian, he worked as a merchandiser for Nestlé and cannot afford a lung transplant out of pocket. His only choice is to use his VA perks.

To do this, a VA doctor must write a referral to a facility since VA hospitals do not perform transplants themselves. The VA primarily refers veterans in need of transplants to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Tennessee.

Vanderbilt does not require the COVID-19 vaccine for transplant patients, but Sultan, records show, has consistently refused to make the referral.

He and Maloney both acknowledged in their letter that Jooyandeh “is significantly weakened due to his pulmonary condition,” but refused to reconsider.

They also refused to consider Jooyandeh’s request for religious exemption.

What remains unclear is the VA policy Sultan and Maloney are following in refusing to give Jooyandeh a referral for his much-needed lung transplant.

In a letter preceding their denial of Jooyandeh’s request for dismissal, John Rohrer, director of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Transplant and Surgical Services, said in a letter that he had confirmed from the “coordinator” of the hospital that the COVID-19 vaccine is required “under current lung transplant program guidelines.”

However, a VA spokesperson was unable to provide The Epoch Times with the VA’s policy on referring veterans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 for a transplant.

Rohrer also did not respond to requests from The Epoch Times asking him to clarify which guidelines he was referring to.

Sultan and Maloney, who did not respond to questions from The Epoch Times, cited recommendations from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) as the basis for their decision.

In March, The Epoch Times reported that Pfizer was one of the corporate sponsors of UNOS. Private hospitals that refused transplants from unvaccinated patients also cited UNOS policies for their stance. In response, UNOS issued a statement to The Epoch Times emphasizing that its recommendations are not mandates and that hospitals are free to make their own decisions regarding transplants for unvaccinated patients.

Last month, the Liberty Counsel sent the VA a formal request for an emergency removal on Jooyandeh’s behalf, but according to Deborah Catalano, senior counsel for the civil rights organization, the VA has yet to respond to its request. April 15 request.

“We’re talking about a man who served his country and probably saved lives and now the very administration he served under is ready to let him die,” she told The Epoch Times.

Jooyandeh’s lung condition could stem from his military service. Although he admitted to smoking, Jooyandeh was also part of an army unit responsible for burning spent ammunition and other ammunition in an open pit mine.

Jooyandeh, who has no other comorbidities, told The Epoch Times that he believed Sultan was acting on his own personal beliefs and had “blacklisted him to such an extent that no one else would replace him.” “.

He even wrote a negative report about Jooyandeh’s refusal to take medication, even though his medical records show he had an adverse reaction.

“He continually stands in our way,” Jooyandeh said, “it’s like he’s messing up my records to make me look uncooperative.”

Catalano said she wondered why the VA would even care if Jooyandeh was vaccinated as none of their hospitals would perform the transplant.

“The VA is denying them access to health care, no one is asking the VA to do that,” she said “he should grant the religious exemption or just let them go to Vanderbilt and pay for it.”

Catalano pointed to a recent study that shows the VA is in the minority when it comes to refusing to make referrals for unvaccinated patients in need of a major organ transplant.

According to the study, which was conducted by the American Journal of Transplantation, of 141 US transplant centers surveyed, 60.7% said COVID vaccination was not required to receive a transplant.


Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for the Boston Globe, the Associated Press and the New England bureau of the New York Times.