EDITORIAL: Don’t overlook veterans in COVID crisis

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Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion

There’s so much to focus on with the coronavirus outbreak and the government’s response to it.

Nursing home residents. Hospital patients. Medical professionals. School children and teachers. Business owners and their customers. Elections and voters and poll workers.

Are we doing enough? How many new cases today? How many deaths? Are we spiking or keeping it in check?

It’s so easy to get caught up in everything that needs attention that it might be easy to forget the people most deserving of our attention and care.

Our veterans and their families.

While we each have had our own struggles with the virus, aging veterans and veterans struggling with PTSD, substance abuse and isolation are particularly vulnerable.

 In addition to the need for regular mental health and substance abuse treatment, many veterans are experiencing isolation, particularly those living in rural areas with inadequate transportation and internet service.

As it has with domestic violence victims, those with disabilities and other individuals struggling with mental health and substance abuse, the separation from society and the inability to get care and treatment has fallen heavily on our veterans’ shoulders.

Like many other individuals, veterans have experienced economic hardships due to job loss and business cutbacks.

Making matters worse, the service providers and agencies that regularly provide care for veterans have had to alter the way they address their needs due to financial pressures and the inability to have direct contact.

As the crisis continues and potentially moves into a second phase, it’s important that state government examine the specific impacts the coronavirus outbreak has had on veterans; assess the state, federal and local response to their needs during this time; and look at ways the government can help improve veterans’ access to services going forward.

Some deeper insight into the problems, along with recommendations for solutions, could come today during a joint state legislative hearing being conducted by Senate and Assembly veterans committees.

 Given what has happened in nursing homes, state lawmakers at today’s hearing need to be particular critical of government actions and particularly probing of witnesses in getting at the root of the problems affecting veterans.

Any testimony they elicit should be followed up promptly with action — legislative, financial and regulatory.

As we deal with the many tentacles of this crisis, we can’t let the needs of the bravest, and often the most vulnerable, among us to be ignored.

The hearing can viewed live starting at 10:30 a.m. today at https://nyassembly.gov/av/

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