Thanks to COVID-19, the global community has been affected on a seismic scale. Nearly every person has experienced the effects of the pandemic in some way. While the toll on some individuals has been minor, certain groups have been disproportionately affected. This posting will address how COVID-19 has impacted Veterans Affairs, or VA as it is more commonly known.
With the advent of COVID-19, or Novel Coronavirus 2019, the organization has been inundated with questions and concerns from former service members as well as family members regarding coverage. Those who are receiving or entitled to VA benefits want to ensure they are covered in the event they become exposed to or infected with the virus.
To address concerns related to the virus, Veterans Affairs announced in May 2020 that it had begun a national four-year study on the impact of COVID-19. This study is known as EPIC3, which stands for Epidemiology, Immunology, and Clinical Characteristics of COVID-19. This project aims to collect data and bio-specimens, including bodily fluids and throat swabs, to determine how COVID-19 has affected veterans.
As is the case with many government agencies, VA regional offices have stopped in-person appointments and are currently to the public. However, they are addressing many benefit questions and issues remotely via phone or online. VA claims and benefits are continuing to be processed as per usual. Moreover, VA facilities started expanding select services that met CDC and government guidelines for safe in-person care. These protocols vary depending upon the facility, so it is recommended that patients in need of care contact their local location for more information.
It is important to note that burial services are limited to direct interments at VA national cemeteries for veterans and their eligible dependents until further notice. Moreover, witnesses to the interments are currently limited to 10 individuals or family members. These requests must be submitted as well as approved by the cemetery. For the safety of all involved, VA national cemeteries have suspended committal services and rendered military funeral honors until further notice. However, these services can be scheduled for a later date once normal operations resume.
In these unprecedented times, veterans and eligible dependents want to know they will continue to be looked after in the pandemic age. The question of how and to what extent COVID-19 has impacted Veterans Affairs remains to be seen.