Tester Presses VA Officials at Hearing to Build Resilient Supply Chain to Protect Veterans from COVID-19: ‘We’re not where we need to be’

Ranking Member calls on Administration and private industry to increase domestic production of medical supplies & personal protective equipment to protect all Americans during national health crisis

At a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Ranking Member Jon Tester pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to build a stronger, more resilient and efficient supply chain to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies to protect veterans and health care workers. Tester also urged private sector professionals to increase production of life-saving supplies domestically.

At the hearing, Tester questioned Veterans Health Administration Executive in Charge Dr. Richard Stone regarding the current state of VA’s supply chain, including readiness for further COVID-19 outbreaks and future emergencies. The Senator highlighted the critical need to ensure supplies meet the anticipated health care demand of veterans and VA employees—both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

“Tell me where we’re at right now, Dr. Stone,” Tester said. “What’s the VA’s current state of PPE and medical supply chain reserves? You talk about a second wave—if a second wave happened in two weeks, are you set up to take care of it and protect our front-line employees?”

“The answer is yes,” Dr. Stone replied. “Ms. Kramer and her team have developed a manual system that every day is updated from every single medical center in the nation and so we are at approximately thirty days on all PPE.”

Tester pressed, “Does that mean you’ve got a thirty day supply? And you believe that to be adequate?”

“No,” Dr. Stone answered. “I believe that we need to move to a sixty day supply. I believe that for a full second wave, we’ll need an additional six months of supply and either that can be supplied by the vendors, the manufacturing system, or must be in our readiness centers.”

Tester continued, “So, Dr. Stone, we’re not where we need to be.”

At the second panel comprised of industry associations, a private manufacturer, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Tester stressed the importance of expanding domestic production in the United States in order to properly safeguard—and bolster—the country’s health care supply chain. Tester also expressed concerns regarding the cost and oversight of VA’s implementation of the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support logistics system and planned transition to LogiCole—a newer medical supply ordering program developed for the Department of Defense with the goal of more efficiently managing the ordering, tracking, and delivery of supplies.

Tester has fought tirelessly to ensure that veterans and the staff who provide their care have better access to life-saving supplies during the pandemic. After voting to deliver nearly $20 billion to strengthen VA’s response to COVID-19, Tester pushed the federal government to make full use of its powers under the Defense Production Act to address the nation’s staggering shortage of supplies and implored Vice President Pence to prioritize VA in the Administration’s supply chain decisions.

As Ranking Member, he also joined his Republican counterpart on the committee earlier this week in calling on the Administration to include the VA Secretary on the Defense Production Act Committee, which advises the President on the most effective use of the Defense Production Act to better meet the needs of all Americans during the national health crisis.

Tester’s opening statement as prepared for delivery can be found HERE.