The Secretary of Veterans Affairs highlights VA's response to COVID-19

Posted at 1:06 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 17:28:01-04

BOISE, Idaho — Veterans Affairs provides services for nine million veterans across the country, and during the pandemic, 16,000 veterans have gotten COVID-19 with 13,000 making a full recovery.

We spoke with Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to learn more about the VA's response to the coronavirus.

"During this time, we had to take some very strategic and very drastic decisions," said Wilkie. "Early on, we cut off our VA's to visitors and families, we triaged everyone before that person came into the facilities and we had to stop normal visits, wellness physicals, but in so doing we protected veterans."

There have been coronavirus outbreaks elsewhere, including a home in Boston where 76 veterans died because of COVID-19. The Secretary of Massachusetts has resigned over the handling of that home.

But for the most part, including here in Idaho, the coronavirus hasn't had a significant impact on veterans, and Secretary Wilkie commends the VA employees for answering the call during the pandemic.

"I give credit to the VA employees," said Wilkie. "It's a testament to the people that work for us and the mission. We actually have fewer requests for leave at this time of the year than last year, people are staying on their posts because of their sense of duty."

The Idaho State Veterans run, which is run by the state has had zero cases of the coronavirus despite frequent tests for COVID-19.