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Kaitlynne Hetrick | May 7, 2020

Read: #AdvocacyUpdate VA Secretary Briefing, VA Tele-Hearing Bill Passed, and more

This past Wednesday, April 15th, IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler and Executive VP Tom Porter participated on a weekly conference call that VA Secretary Wilkie has been conducting with VSOs for the last three weeks to discuss the Department’s efforts to combat the Coronavirus.  Sec. Wilkie said that VA has tested more than 40,000 vets for the virus, and informed us of positive tests and deaths, but since numbers have changed since the call, refer to this new VA site that includes a map of running data. He told us that curves are flattening everywhere except for the Providence – Boston corridor.

VA is helping with added medical personnel there and elsewhere, and it is beginning to implement VA’s 4th Mission to back up the civilian health system in a crisis.  He emphasized that VA would ensure that veterans would be taken care of first. Telehealth appointments are on the rise, and VA is adding more resources to meet the increased demand as many opt out of in-person appointments. With questions rising from the public over the VA’s supply of protective equipment, he told us that VA had the resources it needs and transfers equipment from facilities with ample supplies to those with more need.  However, Wilkie subsequently told the Wall Street Journal that the VA’s supply chain has been interrupted by the virus.

IAVA’s CEO Jeremy Butler and COO Sean Ullman held a virtual press conference on April 14th regarding the relaunch of IAVA’s premiere peer-to-peer support program, Quick Reaction Force (QRF). Formerly known as the Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP), QRF provides confidential 24/7 peer-to-peer support, comprehensive care management, and vital resource connections. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and more veterans and their families are furloughed from their jobs, there are heightened stress levels within our community; QRF aims to help those that need assistance. If you are a veteran or a veteran family member facing challenges, or if you have questions, QRF can help by providing 24/7 peer support and connections to quality resources so you can get back on your feet and meet your goals. To get connected to a Veteran Care Manager for immediate help anytime, day or night, please call 1-855-91RAPID or fill out our online form here. Read our press release on the launch here.

If you are currently experiencing a crisis please contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1.800.273.8255, and press 1. Alternatively, use the Crisis Text Line by texting “RISING” to 741741.

On April 10th, President Trump signed Rep. Joe Cunningham’s (D-SC) VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act (H.R. 4771) into law. This law would help veterans to participate in appeals tele-hearings from their own homes if they are unable to attend in-person. The policy previously only allowed the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which “determines whether veterans are entitled to VA disability benefits and other services,” to conduct tele-hearings from designated locations. As most states have stay-in-place orders in effect, this law will assist many veterans during this stressful time and allow them to attend their appeal hearings virtually. Also included within the bill are protections to make sure that veterans’ information is not compromised. Read more about the bill in this press release by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a topic that is especially important to IAVA Government Affairs Associate, Kaitlynne Hetrick. Read her blog on sexual assault and why it is imperative that the Senate wastes no time in passing the Deborah Sampson Act (H.R. 3224/S. 514)!

Here are some helpful links if you or someone you know is seeking more information about the federal Coronavirus response:

The VA launched its new public health website HERE.
The DoD coronavirus response page is HERE.
If you are a TRICARE beneficiary, see guidance HERE.
Centers for Disease Control guidance HERE.

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