The VA’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

Our Lifeline for Vets phones are ringing off the hook with Veterans or their family members asking about VA facilities. In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the VA has called for additional screenings, questioning or testing Veterans and visitors before they can enter VA clinics and hospitals. That’s a necessary inconvenience, but one of the effects is that the process of screening takes additional time. Vets who weren’t aware of the screening might not have allowed enough time for that before a scheduled appointment. (And remember, the wait for appointments can sometimes be weeks if not months.)

In addition to that, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in his remarks at a White House press conference March 18, “We’ve cut back by one third the number of routine appointments…” One-third???

That explains a lot of our phone traffic. But an explanation doesn’t help a vet who needs an early screening for cancer. The VA has expanded Tele-Health, which is a good thing, but cutting back regular appointments by a third? Does that seem Draconian to anybody else?

What about Veteran benefit hearings? Same thing. Some can be done remotely, but many are being rescheduled. Yes, after long waits for the initial one.

While I realize that “we’re all in this together,” it seems to be that we ought to be able to respond better to our veterans while we still can. Secretary Wilkie described the VA’s first three missions as healthcare, benefits, and memorial affairs. The fourth mission is “to support the federal government in times of natural disasters and pandemics.” I get it. Support.

Maps of the epidemic show the hardest hit areas are New York, Washington and California. I can understand how VA support could be called for in these hardest hit areas, notably New York, but many of the states in the interior of the country have fewer confirmed cases. I wonder if the VA clinics in those areas have cancelled one-third of scheduled appointments.

As a Veteran advocate for almost fifty years, I raise my voice in protest. This is a time when we could really use more counselors on our Lifeline for Vets for more hours. But that takes funds. Something the VA has plenty of. The National Veterans Foundation’s Lifeline for Vets counts on supporters like you. Donating on www.nvf.org  is easy and fast. That noise you hear?  It’s our phones ringing looking for answers, compassion, support.

If you know a veteran who needs help here’s our Lifeline for Vets toll-free number: 888.777.4443

 

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