Loading...

VA Data Outlines Its Role In COVID-19 Response

June 24, 2021 by Daniel Mollenkamp
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON- The Department of Veterans Affairs released data about its involvement with the national coronavirus response. According to the data, it provided thousands of personal protective equipment, admitted hundreds of non-veterans to its facilities, and performed thousands of tests across the country under its role as a national emergency aid.

Scholars have noted the role of veterans and the VA in disaster mitigation may be increasingly important in the years to come, and the latest data offers concrete numbers from the administration as COVID-19 stretched America’s health system to its limit.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the VA said it provided more than 935,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, admitted 488 non-veterans to its medical facilities, and deployed personnel to more than 50 states and territories, including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Many of the clinical workers went to support state veteran’s homes and community nursing homes. In all, the VA sent 1,215 personnel to state veteran’s homes and 980 to community nursing homes. 

The department also sent 232 personnel to the Indian Health Service and Navajo Nation, where a recent Lancet article suggests have been disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus, in part due to a lack of resources.

The numbers are current up to last week, and they can be viewed here.

According to historians, the U.S. represents one of the foremost examples of a country whose veteran welfare programs are treated separately from the rest of the population. The historian Olivier Burtin has argued that veterans also represent one of the only groups in America whose benefits are not perceived as falling under the category of welfare but rather of earned rights, which has led it to a unique place in the American welfare apparatus. 

Emergencies represent a specific exception to this when the VA is expected to cover non-veterans as well in its role as a backup health system for the country.

In 1982, Congress charged the VA to help the nation to handle national emergencies and public health crises, which it calls its “fourth mission.” The Congress meant the charge to open up the VA’s extensive health care resources as a backup for the U.S. Department of Defense to increase the countries readiness and responses to war, terrorism, natural disasters and emergencies. 

This fourth mission asks them to assist with the mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery activities during an emergency like the coronavirus when overflows in the hospital stretch or overwhelm the usual non-veteran medical facilities, according to information from the VA’s website.

The VA has sent resources to assist with other events, including sending resources to aid with the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre. Scholars have also pointed out that the VA’s resources are important for handling the national coronavirus pandemic response because it has a flexible and well-trained clinical workforce, medical supplies, and a national infrastructure, according to a report published in JAMA in 2020.

However, it is unclear whether these resources are being fully utilized. Scholars have suggested that veterans may offer an untapped resource for disasters more generally. 

A 2019 article argued that veterans ought to be recruited as volunteers for disaster relief by the American Red Cross and the Medical Reserve Corps. The article argued that the veteran’s experience would make them ideal for disaster preparedness, and in return, it would offer a way to transition veteran’s back into civilian life and “opportunities that foster an enhanced sense of belonging in their local communities,” potentially mitigating the sense of isolation that can attach to that transition. 

The article argued that tith the growing intensity and frequency of national disasters, veterans could become central to disaster management.

In The News

Health

Voting

Health

August 12, 2022
by Dan McCue
What the Latest COVID Guidance Means for Back to School

WASHINGTON — A hit in the early 1970s featured children in its final refrain singing, “no more pencils, no more... Read More

WASHINGTON — A hit in the early 1970s featured children in its final refrain singing, “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.” If the song were updated this year, Alice Cooper might be tempted to have them throw in “no more remote... Read More

Polio Detected in NYC's Sewage, Suggesting Virus Circulating

NEW YORK (AP) — The polio virus has been found in New York City’s wastewater in another sign that the... Read More

NEW YORK (AP) — The polio virus has been found in New York City’s wastewater in another sign that the disease, which hadn’t been seen in the U.S. in a decade, is quietly spreading among unvaccinated people, health officials said Friday. The presence of the poliovirus... Read More

Dems Near Congressional Passage of Climate, Health Package

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats pushed their flagship climate change and health care bill toward House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats pushed their flagship climate change and health care bill toward House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on the brink of a back-from-the-dead triumph on his leading domestic goals that could energize his party going into November’s elections. Democrats were poised to muscle the measure through the... Read More

August 11, 2022
by Dan McCue
CDC Streamlines COVID Guidelines, Dropping Quarantine, Other Recommendations

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping its recommendation that Americans quarantine... Read More

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping its recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person. Instead it is urging those who know they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but not sick... Read More

August 11, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
White House Revises Monkeypox Vaccine Strategy

WASHINGTON — The White House is rearranging its monkeypox response with a strategy for stretching the supply of vaccines and... Read More

WASHINGTON — The White House is rearranging its monkeypox response with a strategy for stretching the supply of vaccines and with new leadership on its task force. The new strategy announced Tuesday calls for two injections of the vaccine but at only one-fifth the normal potency... Read More

August 11, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Some in Drug Industry Fear Inflation Reduction Act Could Hinder Drug Innovation

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the roughly $740 billion tax, climate and health care package known as the Inflation Reduction... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the roughly $740 billion tax, climate and health care package known as the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 7, by a vote of 51-50. The massive package includes provisions to reduce drug costs for patients and providers by letting Medicare negotiate... Read More

News From The Well