New V.A. Secretary talks to WKRG News 5 about COVID relief for Veterans


Mobile, Ala. (WKRG) — The new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has only been on the job for about a month. But Denis McDonough’s job is starting out on a high note with the passing of President Biden’s COVID relief package that includes some $17B to help veterans.

“The lion’s share of that, 14 and a half billion, is for healthcare.  So that’s going to allow us to update our facilities,” said McDonough in a Zoom interview with WKRG News 5’s Bill Riales.

Part of the problem many veterans have is accessing some of the help that is already available to them. We asked how the billions in new funding would help solve that problem.

“Not only were there 19 or 20 million cancelled appointments,” said McDonough. “There is now a massive increase in the number of vets getting their healthcare by telehealth.  So we have to make sure they have access to computers and connectivity so they can have conversations with their docs.”

The plan includes $262 million to reduce the backlog of compensation and pension claims, a backlog that has grown from 76 thousand to 221 thousand in just this past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And those aren’t cases,” said the Secretary, “Those are people—200 thousand people who are now backlogged, well over three months in getting their benefits.  We’re going to get those benefits out the door now because of this investment.”

$100 million will also be used to modernize the V.A.’s badly antiquated supply chain system.

Here is a breakdown of how the infusion of funds to the V.A. breaks down.

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