Veterans Face 'Life Threatening' Risk During California Blackouts: VA Secretary

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Firefighters hose down flames as a home burns in the Getty fire area along Tigertail Road, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Firefighters hose down flames as a home burns in the Getty fire area along Tigertail Road, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A plan to shut-off power in parts of California as a way to avoid wildfires could cause "significant life-threatening issues" to the 1.6 million veterans living in the state, according to the head of Veterans Affairs.

"I urge you to use your authority as governor to restore power certainty to the millions of people you serve, including veterans who depend on power for their health and safety," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie wrote in a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which services 16 million people throughout northern and central California, shut off power for an estimated 2.35 million residents, The Associated Press reported Sunday. The move is meant to prevent fires sparked by electric lines downed by high winds.

Electric companies throughout the state have been cutting power during windy weather. One blaze in northern California's Sonoma County has so far burned more than 30,000 acres.

VA facilities have back-up power, but the department cannot ensure electricity for veterans or the more than 56,000 community care partners, Wilkie said in the letter. As a result, prolonged blackouts could be "dangerous" for veterans receiving in-home care or for those who use refrigerated medications such as insulin, he wrote.

"With so many veterans dependent upon these necessities, the uncertainty these power outages pose is extremely troubling," he wrote.

Newsom and the state legislature have appropriated $75 million for protecting public safety and vulnerable populations, and the governor announced a new team Saturday to connect in-home supportive services providers to resources.

"Power shut-offs continue to put California's most vulnerable residents at risk," Newsom said in an Oct. 26 press release. "These proactive steps will help us protect medically vulnerable residents and ensure that there is a continuity of care for individuals in health and community care facilities across the state."

California state officials did not respond by deadline to a Military.com request for comment.

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@monster.com.

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