We are living in uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic and our response to it has led to a situation that most of us have never experienced. One thing that that you can be sure of is our commitment to providing services to our state’s veterans.
Although we have closed our offices to the public in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are still providing services. Any veteran who needs assistance can still call the Benefits Office nearest them and leave a message. We will return this call and do everything we can to make sure the issue is resolved. We are still able to file claims and work with veterans to complete required paperwork.
VA Benefits Hearings:
The federal VA has suspended in-person hearings because of the pandemic and is now conducting hearings online. Multiple individuals are able to participate in these online hearings from different locations, including the veteran and the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance Veterans Service Officer. In order to conduct these hearings, the federal VA has created a system called VA Video Connect. This is the same system the Veterans Health Administration uses for tele-health appointments. The veteran and their representative can both attend the meeting. Once the veteran logs on from their home computer using a web browser or on a mobile device using the VA Video Connect app, the system will direct them to the virtual meeting space. The VA Video Connect app will work on iOS and Android devices.
Although the VA has suspended all in-person hearings as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual hearings will continue after the pandemic is over and the WVDVA is adjusting to ensure that we can continue to best represent you. We are investing in new technology so we can participate in these online hearings. This includes updating computers for all of our Veteran Service Officers and providing them video conferencing equipment. Once our offices re-open to the public, veterans who can’t access VA Video Connect at their home will be able to come in and sit down with a Veterans Service Officer who will connect them to their hearing.
We have implemented policies at the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility in Clarksburg and the Veterans Home in Barboursville to keep the residents in those facilities safe. As we have seen around the country, nursing home residents are vulnerable to this illness. These policies include suspending all visitation and only allowing essential employees inside the facility. Additionally, we are conducting routine temperature checks to screen for the illness. We have established an “isolation wing” in the Veterans Home and negative pressure rooms to use for quarantine at the Nursing Facility in the event we do have a positive or suspected case of COVID-19. To date, both of our facilities remain COVID-19 free. At the Veterans Home in Barboursville, we are offering services to veterans to encourage them to stay on site, such as sending an employee out for groceries and essentials for the residents.
We understand that this outbreak is uncharted territory. It is causing anxiety and stress. It is important to note that this crisis will pass. Stay positive and stay informed about the issues. There are ways to cope with the anxiety and stress. Pay attention to your mental as well as your physical health. Practice good hygiene and social distancing. Wash your hands. We will get through this as we always have – together.