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Rose Applauds VA Action to Treat Non-Veteran Patients to Assist NYC’s COVID-19 Response

Congressman has led push to utilize VA to increase hospital capacity: ‘We’re at war with the coronavirus and we need all the help and resources we can get’

Staten Island, March 29, 2020

Congressman Max Rose, a Member of the Committee on Veterans Affairs who has been leading the push for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to embark on its Fourth Mission, issued the following statement applauding today’s announcement that VA will assist New York City’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) by opening 50 beds to non-Veteran patients to ease the burden on local hospitals.

“We’re at war with the coronavirus and we need all the help and resources we can get,” said Rose, an Army combat veteran. “We drastically need to increase capacity at our hospitals, and utilizing VA facilities in that effort makes sense and is the right thing to do. As a veteran myself who strongly supports the VA’s mission, calling for the VA to embark on its Fourth Mission isn’t something I proposed lightly, but we’re in unprecedented times. I applaud the leadership of the President, Governor, VA, FEMA, and our local hospitals for hearing my calls and taking this action—it will help save lives.”

VA, which made its decision after determining this action would not negatively impact Veteran care, is opening a total of 50 beds (35 acute care and 15 intensive care unit) to non-Veteran, non-COVID-19 patients to help assist New York City in its COVID-19 response efforts. VA acted in response to a request the department received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after the state of New York asked FEMA for federal assistance. The transfer of five non-COVID-19 patients from community hospitals to VA New York Harbor Healthcare System’s Manhattan and Brooklyn campuses is underway, and both campuses continue to receive Veteran patients.

VA’s decision follows calls by Rose, a former nonprofit healthcare executive, to utilize VA facilities in the effort to increase hospital capacity. Earlier this month, Rose proposed opening VA hospitals and facilities up to the general public on an emergency basis. In a letter to the Governor last week, Rose proposed establishing referral relationships between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Veterans Medical Systems and local public and private hospitals, both veterans and non-veterans, to help ease the burden and increase hospital capacity. Rose, who was the first to push for the one of the U.S. Navy’s hospital ships to be deployed to New York City, then proposed using the USNS Comfort, which is set to deploy to New York City on Monday, to treat non-COVID-19 veterans.

Last week, following guidance from VA that all New York City veterans who receive VA care and who need to be hospitalized with COVID-19 will be admitted to the Brooklyn VA, Rose urged VA to take steps to drastically increase capacity for treatment at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center.

VA’s Fourth Mission, as established by Congress in 1982, is to back up the nation’s healthcare system in times of emergency. The VA serves a role in both the National Response Framework (NRF) and the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) as an option to supplement health and medical systems at the request of state, local, tribal, or territorial authorities.