Nearly five months into 2020, the global community continues the ongoing battle against the still-surging coronavirus pandemic. The world today looks much different than it did even just a few weeks ago, and may not return to what would be considered normal anytime soon. The effects of this coronavirus are astounding — not only is the health and safety of individuals at risk, but the economy teeters on the brink as well. How will this ongoing crisis affect veterans?
From the health standpoint, there is definitely cause for concern. As veterans must typically access healthcare from VA medical facilities, the number of cases and inpatient deaths has caused a ripple effect on the availability of staff and services. An article from April 20, 2020 on MilitaryTimes.com states that the coronavirus death rate in VA facilities is higher than its typical mortality rate, clocking in at over 6 percent. To date, a tracker listing cases and inpatient deaths associated with VA facilities has the record at just over 8,000 positive cases and over 400 deaths.
In addition, medical personnel are coming down with the virus, and 14 VA employees (as of April 20, 2020) have died. This puts additional strain on the facilities to provide the necessary care and treatment for patients.
Remember: veterans must usually seek care at a VA facility. While the VA has stated that they are handling referrals outside of the VA, this is nonetheless an alarming time during which some medical procedures are simply unavailable, and many veterans find themselves without timely access to care. Some political candidates, such as Joe Biden, have voiced a desire to continue the socialization of veteran healthcare, meaning that one day in the not-too-near future veterans may see their choice of providers dwindle even further. This is a primary example of a time during which seeing a provider out of network may in fact save a life. Particularly for veterans in rural areas, where VA facilities may struggle even more with staffing and availability, having the choice to seek care elsewhere is vital.
As we continue to navigate this complicated time, it’s important that we don’t allow the care of our veterans to fall into the wrong hands. Mishandling of veteran affairs and care can have devastating effects on both the physical as well as the mental health of those who have served their country. It is a disservice to provide anything but the most readily accessible, top quality healthcare possible. This includes allowing veterans to seek care outside of the VA’s network.
What about economic care for those who have been affected by the pandemic? Fortunately, there have been some measures taken to help bridge the gap in employment that may be caused by fallout from the virus. Veterans who need financial assistance can check this link for ways to apply for aid. In addition, stimulus checks have been made available for the majority of citizens. Even if you have not yet filed your 2019 taxes, you can still ensure the IRS has up to date information by clicking here.