BOSTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is not only responsible for serving millions of veterans across America, it’s also helping serve local communities.
It’s called the VA’s fourth mission.
The first three missions are veteran’s health, veterans benefits, and memorial services.
“Our fourth mission is a national mission, and that is to help the country in times of natural disaster and epidemic, you usually see us responding to hurricanes and earthquakes. but in this case, once veterans are taken care of we expand our services.” says Robert Wilkie, U.S. Secretary for Veterans Affairs.
He says the VA has been deployed in 46 states, including Massachusetts to help local communities deal with COVID-19.
Wilkie says the state asked the department of Veterans Affairs to provide assistance in the state run soldiers' homes and other nursing homes during the surge.
“I think probably one of the most unprecedented parts is kind of learning as we go.” said Joan Clifford, director of the VA Medical Center in Bedford.
Back in April, Clifford said the state requested help when the state soldiers' homes became overwhelmed by COVID-19
“We were asked if we could help Chelsea soldiers home by taking some of their patients so they were actually first covid positive patients.” she said
As part of the fourth mission, Clifford says VA Bedford staff have also been called to help out in COVID-19 hotspots in New York and Arizona.
“You leave your family and you go work 12 hour shifts, seven days a week and you’re living out of a hotel and just working” says Clifford.
Wilkie says the last time the VA was deployed for an epidemic of this magnitude was World War One.
“So we’ve tested the system, it does work. and we’re there to provide support for not only the federal government and our veterans but also for the states when we’re requested.” says Wilkie.
He says VA has expanded telehealth appointments and telehealth outreach by over 900% to meet the health demands of local veterans in the Boston area as part of the department’s first mission in response to COVID-19.
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