Veterans Corner: Digital screening increases rate of COVID-19 testing for veterans and employees

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    By Raymond Taylor
    PREVIEW Columnist

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced recently the use of digital screening at VA health care facilities and increased telehealth has enabled the department to dramatically increase the rate of COVID-19 testing for veterans and employees.

    To date, the VA has tested more than 576,000 veterans and employees for COVID-19, one of many aggressive steps used to prevent transmission of the virus. The Veterans Health Administration’s COVID-19 employee infection rate is less than 1 percent of its workforce — much lower than other health care systems. Employees testing positive for coronavirus could be due to exposure in the community and not related to any potential workplace exposure.

    “Testing is a critical piece of VA’s public health response to protect and care for veterans, their families, health care providers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Our testing policies and procedures have helped to significantly limit the spread of the virus within our medical facilities, while universal COVID-19 testing for patients and staff as well as other safeguards at VA’s community living centers and spinal cord injury units has minimized the COVID-19 exposure risk for some of our most vulnerable patient populations.”

     In March, the VA tested an average of 631 people a day for COVID-19. As of Aug. 24, the VA is currently testing an average of 6,300 people daily, approximately a 900 percent increase, and has diagnosed 43,276 veterans with COVID-19. Among its 9.2 million patients enrolled in VA health care, 3,195 are active COVID-19 cases, 413 of which are inpatient. A total of 37,293 VA COVID-19 patients have reached convalescence, meaning they have been discharged from care or are 14 days past their last positive test, whichever comes later. 

    Veterans can request a COVID-19 test by sending a secure message to their provider via My HealtheVet, scheduling an appointment online or calling their provider by phone.

    Veterans must be enrolled in VA health care to receive a COVID-19 test through the VA. There is no copay. Results typically take two to four days and the medical provider will contact the veteran with results. Veterans who test positive should monitor their symptoms, stay in touch with their medical provider and avoid contact with anyone else. 

    Vets4Vets grant

    Vets4Vets has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is to support veterans in our community through the following assistance: housing, utilities, mental health counseling, dental services, travel assistance, automobile repairs, gas and food cards, and emergency veteran assistance. 

    Contact Vets4Vets at 799-VETS or www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

    Contact information

    Veterans: Thank you for your service. Welcome home.

    For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office (VSO), located at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

    The office: 264-4013, fax number: 264-4014, and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. Bring your DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO. Always leave a message and phone number to contact you.

    The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

    • American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

    • Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Tennyson Building Event Center, 197 Navajo Trail Drive. Breakfast meeting on the first Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. Contact 799-8387 for more details.

    • Combat Veterans PTSD Group: every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, Lewis Street. Contact Gary Hanneman at 946-2540.

    • Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: first and third Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Carter’s office; contact Charlotte at 903-9690.

    Important information

    • 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

    • Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

    • Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.

    • VAMC Albuquerque, N.M.: (800) 465-8262.

    • VA Health Care Emergency Notification: (844) 724-7842.

    The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.