Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Push Veterans Health Administration For Comprehensive Plans to Protect Veterans Against Coronavirus

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden teamed up with 10 of their Senate colleagues to push the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure that the agency is taking appropriate measures to protect those who served our nation from thecoronavirus health crisis.

Merkley co-led the letter along with U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The Senators’ letter comes amid reports that additional residents of Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, Oregon, have tested positive for COVID-19—raising the total number of diagnosed individuals at the property to 10, and prompting a facility-wide lockdown. Additionally, a patient at the Portland VA Medical Center who tested positive for the virus died on Saturday.

“We write to request details regarding VA’s approach to coronavirus preparedness and how the Department’s response has changed. We recognize that the COVID-19 outbreak is an evolving situation, with a growing impact on the U.S. and global community, and want to ensure that the VA has all of the resources needed to keep veterans, staff, and communities safe,” the Senators wrote.

As a part of VA’s “Fourth Mission,” the Department may be called on to provide health care to individuals responding to or affected by a natural disaster or national emergency. In their letter, the Senators requested information on the agency’s efforts to increase response and preparedness; coordinate with federal, state, and local governments; provide quality screening and health care; secure funding; and improve communication with veterans and Veterans Service Organizations.

VA is the nation’s largest health care system with 172 medical facilities and 1,241 outpatient sites, 9 million enrolled veterans, and employing more than 322,000 staff across the country.

Merkley and Wyden were joined on the letter by Senators Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Robert Casey (D-PA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 

The full text of the letter is available here.