Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Veteran health
VA is committed to protecting and caring for Veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. VA offers online resources to keep you up-to-date on the latest information regarding COVID-19, and you can check with your local VA medical center for current procedures regarding obtaining care. VA is partnering with other federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to monitor the outbreak of the virus.
COVID-19 and Veteran Risk
Veterans have the same risk for coronavirus infection and illness severity as the general population, based on the current understanding of this virus. Simply being a Veteran does not increase your risk. According to the CDC, those who may be at higher risk for more severe complications from COVID-19 include:
- Adults age 65 or over
- Those who reside in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Those who have an underlying health condition, such as chronic lung disease, asthma, or breathing problems
- Those who have a serious heart condition, diabetes, severe obesity, chronic kidney disease, or liver disease or have a compromised immune system (such as from an immune disease or those who take immune weakening medicines)
To prevent coronavirus infection, Veterans should follow the precautions recommended by the CDC, including:
- requent hand washing for at least 20 seconds
- Avoiding touching your face
- Keeping six feet of space between yourself and others
- Covering your coughs and sneezes
- Wearing a face mask to protect others
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
Find more prevention tips from the CDC.
VA Health Services
To protect Veterans’ health and safety, VA is currently deferring environmental health registry evaluations at many locations or offering them via telehealth, depending on the location. To find out about environmental health registry exams nearest you, contact your local Environmental Health Coordinator. To find out the latest information on operating status and care at your local VA medical center, review your local VA medical center web page.
Airborne hazards and coronavirus
Some Veterans report deployment exposures to respiratory irritants, such as smoke from burn pits, oil fires, explosives, or sand and dust storms. These exposures may cause symptoms, including irritation of the sinuses, mucous membranes, and the respiratory tract.
Studies have shown that those diagnosed with an underlying lung disease, such as asthma, COPD or chronic bronchitis, regardless of cause, may be more susceptible to respiratory illnesses and may place individuals at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
VA has been communicating with Veterans and Service members who initiated or completed the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry questionnaire through email, providing resources and suggesting actions to take during the coronavirus pandemic. VA also modified its initial letter to registry participants to address COVID-19.
In addition, the VA Airborne Hazards Burn Pit Center of Excellence is conducting a study to investigate whether previous exposure to airborne hazards experienced by combat Veterans makes them more susceptible to developing more severe COVID-19 illness.