Tester Doubles Down on Push for VA to Protect Veterans Against Coronavirus

Senator sends second letter to Veterans Health Administration requesting additional details on agency’s response and preparedness

Following a recent surge in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases among veterans, Ranking Member Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is doubling down on his push to ensure the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking appropriate measures to protect the men and women who served our nation.

VA is the nation’s largest health care system with 172 medical facilities and 1,241 outpatient sites, 9 million enrolled veterans, and employing more than 322,000 staff across the country. In a second letter led by Tester to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), members called on the Department to address the growing number of veteran cases confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Senators wrote: “Now that VA has recorded ten cases across the U.S., we write to request details regarding VA’s approach to coronavirus preparedness and how the Department’s response has changed. We recognize that the COVID-19 outbreak is an evolving situation, with a growing impact on the U.S. and global community, and want to ensure that the VA has all of the resources needed to keep veterans, staff, and communities safe.”

As a part of VA’s “Fourth Mission,” the Department may be called on to provide health care to individuals responding to or affected by a natural disaster or national emergency. In their letter, the Senators requested information on the agency’s efforts to increase response and preparedness, coordinate with Federal, State, and local governments, provide quality screening and health care, secure funding, and improve communication with veterans and Veterans Service Organizations.

Tester has continued to monitor the emergent threat of novel coronavirus closely. In a letter on February 6, Tester and his colleagues called on VA to increase coordination with CDC to ensure that the Department be fully equipped to handle, monitor, and contain the spread of coronavirus. VHA’s response to the Senators’ letter can be read HERE.

Earlier this week, Ranking Member Tester introduced a bipartisan bill to allow veterans on the GI Bill to continue receiving full benefits as universities move classes online to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

More updates and information on coronavirus can be found HERE.