Shaheen Calls on VA to Develop COVID-19 Testing Strategy at Facilities Nationwide

May 08, 2020

(Washington, DC) – This week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and a group of 17 Senators called on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ramp up Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing at VA facilities nationwide and establish a framework for a large-scale strategy for national testing. 

“In support of a nationwide testing strategy, VA can be a great asset in achieving the kind of testing scale-up necessary to safely open the economy successfully and stave off or address a second wave. As the largest integrated health care system in the country, overseeing more than 1,200 health care facilities across the United States, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is well-positioned to help our nation amplify our testing strategy,” wrote the Senators in the letter sent to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.  

A proactive national strategy by the VA would, for example, expand, centralize, and coordinate the ordering and distribution of critical supplies and testing kits to all VA facilities nationwide. This expansion would not only increase VA capacity to provide relief for the veteran community, it would also free up precious resources at non-VA hospitals to focus on caring for civilians.  

In the letter, the Senators outline recommendations for producing a testing strategy, including making testing kits available at all VA facilities, including non-hospitals; testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic veterans; providing more detailed testing data on VA’s website; and developing a plan to provide a sufficient workforce to carry out the strategy, as well as equipping them with proper supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment.  

The letter can be read in full here.

Earlier this week, Shaheen and a group of Senators called on President Trump to develop a comprehensive national strategic plan of action by May 24th to ensure states have sufficient tests to begin safely re-opening. 

Increasing the nation’s testing capacity has been a top priority for Senator Shaheen. Shaheen recently called on Congress to include $8 billion in new funding for contact tracing initiatives in the next COVID-19 response legislation. Senator Shaheen supported the $25 billion to increase COVID-19 testing capacity – of which New Hampshire will receive at least $17 million – and make an initial investment in contact tracing in the recently passed Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.  In March, Shaheen, along with the rest of the state’s congressional delegation and the Governor, urged the President to speed up the distribution of critical medical supplies, including swabs for diagnostic testing. Senator Shaheen called on Vice President Pence and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a national inventory of COVID-19 testing supplies, publicly release data on testing results and provide a detailed plan and timeline for addressing future shortages and gaps in the testing supply chain. Senator Shaheen recently called on FEMA to prioritize COVID-19 testing kits for New Hampshire in reaction to the agency’s inadequate response to the state’s needs, which included sending 15 testing machines but only 120 testing kits for the entire state.