BIG SANDY – Ranking Member Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is continuing to push the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement key provisions under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to ensure veterans and health care workers are protected during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Under the CARES Act, VA is required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for home health care workers who provide care to veterans. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie yesterday, Ranking Member Tester demanded the Department comply with the law and quickly distribute essential PPE to home care providers and contractors during the pandemic. 

“When I fought to include this provision in law, it was so that home health workers could have the necessary PPE before they even stepped foot into a veteran’s home–not for them to be forced to show up empty-handed and have to rely on the veteran patient to supply them with essential PPE,” Ranking Member Tester wrote. “VA should not be gambling with veterans’ and providers’ health by denying home health workers the PPE they need to safely do their jobs. Further, if the Department ran into issues implementing the law as intended, VA officials should have come directly to me and the other leaders of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees.”

Tester has fought tirelessly to ensure that veterans and the staff who provide their care have better access to life-saving supplies during the pandemic. After voting to deliver nearly $20 billion to strengthen the VA’s response to COVID-19, Tester quickly called on Secretary Wilkie to implement key provisions under CARES to provide supplies to State Veterans Homes. He demanded VA proactively share PPE with veterans and employees at these facilities, and with home health care workers. Tester also pressed the federal government to make full use of its powers under the Defense Production Act, imploring Vice President Mike Pence to prioritize VA in any supply chain decisions to better protect veterans, health care professionals, and all Americans from the coronavirus. 

Ranking Member Tester continued, “Seven months after enactment, it is unacceptable that VA is not complying with the CARES Act and leaving homebound veterans and their providers at-risk during a major pandemic. What is VA’s plan to comply with the CARES Act and provide both employees and contractors with appropriate PPE so they can care for veterans safely?”

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