AMVETS Calls on Full Support to Execute Veterans Affairs’ “Fourth Mission”

 Contact: Miles Migliara, National Communications Manager, AMVETS

(301) 395-7486 | media@amvets.org

As our nation deals with the unprecedented coronavirus epidemic, AMVETS has taken every effort to ensure veterans and their families have access to the life-essential services we offer, such as providing benefits assistance and facilitating timely healthcare access.

This has required our leadership to work in concert with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as VA doctors, nurses, therapists, and administrators try to balance their health and ability to serve with helping the most vulnerable who present at their facilities with possible COVID-19 infection and other life-threatening ailments.

It is not surprising that the constant flood of reports, updates, and breaking news have left many feeling anxious and uncertain. The influx of new reports raise new concerns over whether VA will suspend access to “non-urgent care” as well as implement a “strategic pause” on care authorized under the VA MISSION Act. While bureaucratic inquiry, response, messaging, and maneuvering have to remain necessary evils within the beltway, AMVETS will remain a hyper-focused, staunch champion for what ultimately matters most: immediate access to timely healthcare in the midst of this crisis for anyone who has earned it by virtue of serving our country.

Having said that, this crisis is one that is multifaceted and complicated by the levels of danger and threat of exposure to literally everyone involved. When clinicians are taken off the front lines due to illness, fewer hospital beds are fillable, fewer patients can be seen, and the situation worsens as demand outpaces capacity. Our duty to veterans includes a duty to those who must care for them under circumstances the agency, as well as our country, has neither seen before nor contemplated at this scale and level of urgency.

What AMVETS does not expect is a quest for perfect decision making preceded by “think tanking” every problem before acting. Sometimes the decision will come down to a choice between suboptimal and outright bad options. The end goal needs to be whatever it takes to preserve all lives, first and foremost. Whether that requires suspending some services to reduce exposure, outsourcing services to ensure other health threats are addressed, vastly expanding the use of telemedicine, manning more nurse advice lines around the clock — the mission does not change just because the threat has challenged our collective imagination. In fact, it becomes even more essential.

Now is the time we expect to see VA medical facility directors, integrated network leaders, and VA central office staff step up to execute the VA Secretary’s intent. Facts and realities on the ground will have to dictate necessary actions, not strict adherence to policies out of context. We would like to see local leaders addressing local media, conducting virtual town halls, and most importantly, quickly conveying best practices so that timely knowledge transfer becomes a force multiplier in the effort to get ahead of this fast-moving pandemic. To say time is of the essence is not enough anymore. Timely action supported by agile decision making, with an emphasis on protecting human capital, is absolutely imperative.

AMVETS urges the White House and Congress to provide VA Secretary Wilkie with any and all support he needs to deal with this historic challenge our country faces. He, his senior staff, the leaders in the field, and every man and woman working on the front lines to get our veterans through this have our utmost confidence. 

There will be ample time for criticism and hindsight reflections on what they could have done better. But it is those in the arena today, who are doing what few of us are being asked to do and deserve our silence to the extent it does not save lives. Conversely, we owe them our voice when it is required to inspire hope and confidence as we all work together to defeat an invisible enemy that respects no socioeconomic or geopolitical boundaries.

AMVETS is the nation’s largest and oldest Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization that is open to and fights for all veterans who served honorably, including reservists & guardsmen. AMVETS has been a nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families for more than 70 years.

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March 27th, 2020
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