VA works to reduce reluctance to COVID-19 vaccine


Before a COVID-19 vaccine received emergency approval to begin use, the Department of Veterans Affairs had already started developing a distribution plan. But Carolyn Clancy, VA’s assistant under secretary for health, said despite advance planning, her department’s distribution still faces a hurdle: the reluctance of veterans to receive the vaccine.

On August 28, at his national convention in Phoenix, Clancy told the American Legion’s Commission on Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation that it was essential that veterans receive the vaccine and even sought help from the Legion to disseminate this information.

“We’ve never had a prolonged public health emergency like this,” she said. “We’re over a year and a half away, and we don’t know exactly when it’s going to end. It was great science to come up with these effective vaccines, but this last mile puts them in people’s arms – a challenge that I think it’s fair to say the country underestimated. “

Clancy said VA has been proactive in generating confidence in vaccines among its patient population, including hosting listening sessions for veterans of color “because we anticipated some challenges there. told us, the information had to come from a trusted source. For many veterans, it was either their primary care physician or another veteran. ”

This is where the American Legion comes in. “For those of you who are vaccinated, thank you,” Clancy said. “You couldn’t do more to protect yourself, your family, fellow veterans, and loved ones. If you have friends (and) colleagues who are considering (getting vaccinated) but aren’t quite there yet – especially veterans who live in rural areas – I know what phenomenal work you do with d ‘other veterans. We are counting on you as indispensable partners and I would like to thank you for it.

Clancy said easy access to the vaccine also emerged during the discussions, as did the ability to make an appointment for the vaccine. VA has provided Internet-connected devices to many veterans to communicate with them and used its database to identify vaccine-eligible veterans and schedule appointments for them.

Clancy said 70 VA facilities were part of trials for at least one vaccine during Operation Warp Speed, a federal collaboration between the private and public sectors to accelerate the development, manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, “this which I think is something to be pretty proud of, ”Clancy said, also noting that VA is already working on distribution plans for all vaccine recalls.

Clancy also briefly referred to the VA pilot program to provide care to a veteran’s home after a first in-person visit to a VA facility: “Supporting Community, Outpatient, Urgent Care, and Telehealth Services” (SCOUTS) VA will send a Technician (ICT) to a veteran’s residence to provide a digital consultation which includes ensuring the veteran has some form of smart device and has a good internet connection. ICT will solve technical problems and can enhance the virtual tour with a digital stethoscope that allows doctors to virtually listen to heart health in real time.

“We often end up hospitalizing people who don’t necessarily need a hospital experience,” Clancy said. “It puts them at some risk of getting an infection when they get to the hospital, of falling because they’re in a strange place.

“What we are seeing (thanks to the pilot program) is a significant decrease in hospital admissions from the emergency department. The most important aspect, in my opinion, is to reduce the risk.

Michael Frueh, VA’s deputy senior assistant secretary for veteran benefits, said the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) had to adapt its operations during the pandemic. But he pointed out that VBA recently completed its 1 millionth Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam earlier this year than any other year, completed 5,000 personalized career counseling sessions with veterans and recently guaranteed its 1.3 millionth. VA home loan, its highest amount ever. .

VBA has started doing C&P exams virtually, and three-quarters of its fiscal year has paid out $ 93 billion in benefits, including disability awards, education and survivor benefits, and vocational rehabilitation.

Frueh said requests for new presumptions for Vietnamese veterans facing the effects of toxic exposure began being processed on June 21 – “the fastest we’ve ever implemented for any kind of presumption of the agent orange, ”he said. “For the Vietnam veteran and his survivors… who have applied previously and been denied one of these presumptions… we are contacting them. Veterans do not have to file another application. They do not have to complete any other documents.

Retired U.S. Army Major General Matthew Quinn, currently Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs at the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), has announced an expansion of the Veterans Legacy Memorial (VLM) project. The VLM is an online memorial space maintained by the NCA that provides a profile page for each Veteran buried in a National Cemetery. Family members and friends can add tributes, photos and memories to profiles.

Quinn, a member of the American Legion Department from Montana, announced that on Veterans Day 2021, the NCA plans to expand the VLM Project to the 119 VA-funded state, territory and tribal cemeteries. It will extend the reach of the VLM to nearly 4.5 million deceased veterans.

” This is just the beginning. We want to be able to extend that to private cemeteries and locate those veterans buried in private cemeteries and create (profiles) for them, ”Quinn said. “Yesterday I walked through DC and walked over the Vietnam Wall. And I thought, looking at individuals standing and recording a name, “this memory is exactly what VLM does for our veterans in an automated fashion.” For the heroes of our nation, VLM, we believe, is the future of remembrance. “

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