VA Secretary on Coping With Pandemic

Veteran's Voices

WASHINGTON, DC — The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is working to still serve veterans during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Robert Wilkie was appointed to head the VA by President Trump in 2018.

“The good thing about VA is that we’ve never shut down, we have remained open, but we’ve had to pivot, we’ve had to make very tough decisions early on, some there in Iowa, said Wilkie. “We had to cut off our nursing homes to visitors and family, so doing we were able to protect our most vulnerable population.”

He added during the pandemic it was necessary to suspend in-person appointments and elective surgeries. He said it was necessary to triage people at the door.

“If we could not meet people face-to-face we would find a way to get them services,” said Wilkie. “An example in the normal months we conduct around 40,000 mental health tel-appointments in the month of June that was up to 905,000.”

The VA has been under fire for not getting services to veterans in a timely manner. Wilkie said he has been working to change things.

Wilkie said he was able to get $17 billion from Congress to apply to COVID-19 expenses. He also landed the largest budget ever for the VA at over $250 billion.

“We have made those changes by giving people at the local level the authority to make decisions for themselves, and their patients,” said Wilkie. “We’ve released well over 8,000 people who are not doing their job from the very top of political appointees, down to the sterile processing unit.”

Wilkie said he hopes to pay a visit to Iowa sometime this fall.

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