Coronavirus (COVID-19) safety is a top priority, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at the American Legion Winter Conference March 10 in Washington, D.C.
With Coronavirus dominating national news, Wilkie addressed VA's response to the situation, including prevention steps at VA medical centers.
"We are making sure that those who come to us are screened," he said. Wilkie also said VA is limiting visitors to its community living centers, or nursing homes.
"We need to do that to make sure that those who use VA are protected, that they are cared for," he said. "We will get over this and we will make sure everything is done to protect those who have done so much for our country."
Suicide prevention, benefits
Wilkie also talked about the President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, executive order. The goal of PREVENTS is to bring together stakeholders across all levels of government and in the private sector to work side by side to provide Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. The secretary said VA is weeks away from the PREVENTS initiative task force report. The report will supply a roadmap for greater cooperation at the state, local and tribal level.
The secretary also offered high praise for Veteran Service Organizations like the American Legion. He said through continued engagement and the MISSION Act, Vietnam Veterans are about to receive additional benefits.
"We have finally published the regulations that give financial and material support to the families of our Vietnam warriors who take care of those warriors at home, and it is long past time," the secretary said.
Wilkie said he has a personal interest in caring for Vietnam Veterans. His father received injuries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Wilkie said the nation should never turn its back "on those men and women who provide us the very freedoms that we breathe and live every day."
The secretary also discussed another group of Vietnam Veterans. He said VA started accepting Blue Water Navy compensation claims in January. Wilkie added that VA expects 70,000 to apply for the benefits "that are long overdue."