VA Dispatches Mobile Clinics to Texas for Harvey Relief Efforts
Three Mobile Vet Centers have been operating in the Texas storms, and one was expected to arrive in Houston on Friday to provide counseling and assistance.
Early Friday, President Donald Trump retweeted a photo from VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin showing one of the Mobile Vet Centers in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Hurricane Harvey hit first last week.
"Our Mobile Vet Center set up and ready to help," Shulkin said.
The VA chief accompanied Vice President Mike Pence and other Cabinet members aboard Air Force Two on Thursday on a tour of the Gulf Coast and other areas to gauge the response to Harvey and its aftermath, and hear from local officials on their needs.
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Before leaving for Texas, Shulkin said in a statement that he would meet with first responders and "make sure that veterans are being cared for down there."
On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in Texas, where the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the continental U.S. knocked out power to many facilities and flooding prevented many patients from reaching hospitals.
Following the declaration, the Department of Veterans Affairs activated the Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan in areas devastated by the storms.
The relief plan allows vets with a VA ID card needing an emergency supply of medications to go to any CVS or HEB pharmacy with a written prescription or active VA prescription bottle to receive a 14-day supply.
VA Medical Centers across Texas generally remain open for patients who can reach them, but a number of outpatient clinics were forced to close.
VA doctors and nurses from other states also are coming in to bolster recovery efforts and relieve exhausted staff.
On Wednesday, the Charles Wilson VA Outpatient Clinic reopened in Lufkin for Houston-area vets who can reach it.
More than 500,000 veterans live in areas affected by the Category 4 Hurricane Harvey and its spinoff storms, including more than 175,000 veterans enrolled in VA health care, according to the VA.
One Mobile Vet Center was deployed to the Corpus Christi VA Specialty Clinic, and a second was in Dallas at City Hall Plaza. A third was scheduled to arrive in Houston on Friday at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where more than 5,000 flood victims were sheltering at the height of the storms.
The VA has about 80 Mobile Vet Centers (MVCs) nationwide to respond in crises and bring access to services to local communities.
The MVCs are 38-foot community outreach vehicles equipped with two confidential counseling rooms where Vet Center counselors can meet privately to provide support and benefits referrals.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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