CARES Act Provisions for the Department of Veterans Affairs
Published: April 02, 2020
Last week, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, also referred to as the Stimulus Package, into law to aid the nation during the coronavirus pandemic. Some provisions of the legislation provide funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs to support veteran health care and agency operations.
- The CARES Act appropriates $19.6 billion in emergency funding to the VA for health response and agency operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The act allocates $14.4 billion for medical services, $2.2 billion for information technology, and $2.1 billion for medical community care.
- VA will need outside assistance from federal contractors, staffing companies, construction firms, medical equipment providers, IT vendors to respond to the COVID-19 health emergency.
The act is divided into two divisions: Division A – Keeping Workers Paid and Employed, Health Care System Enhancements, and Economic Stabilization, and Division B – Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations. Division B provides clearly defined emergency supplemental funding of $340 billion for federal agencies, state and local governments, and hospitals to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Due to VA’s health care role for our nation’s veterans, provisions of the legislation provide $19.6 billion in funding to the department. All of the provisions of the act that relate to VA are located in Division B, which are emergency appropriations for coronavirus health response and agency operations. Summaries of the specific CARES Act provisions that involve VA along with any described funding are listed below:
VA Provisions in the CARES Act:
- Medical Services: Supports increased demand for health care services at VA facilities and through telehealth, including the purchase of medical equipment and supplies, testing kits, and personal protective equipment. Also enables VA to provide additional support for vulnerable veterans, including through programs to assist homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless veterans, as well as within VA-run nursing homes and community living centers. ($14.4B)
- Information Technology: Supports increased telework, telehealth, and call center capabilities to deliver healthcare services directly related to coronavirus and mitigate the risk of virus transmission. This includes the purchasing of devices, as well as enhanced system bandwidth and support. ($2.15B)
- Medical Community Care: Supports increased demand for care in the community, specifically emergency room and urgent care. ($2.1B)
- Medical Facilities: Supports development of alternative sites of care and procurement of mobile treatment centers to meet the demand for health care services, improvements in security, and non-recurring maintenance projects to existing infrastructure and utility systems at VA facilities (e.g., reconfiguration of space to support care). ($606M)
- Grants for Construction of State Extended Care Facilities: Supports modification or alteration of existing hospital, nursing home, and domiciliary facilities in state homes to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. ($150M)
- Medical Emergency Management: Supports the Veterans Health Administration’s 24-hour emergency management coordination, including overtime, travel, transportation of materials, and training. ($100M)
- Office of Inspector General: Supports oversight of VA’s efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. ($12.5M)
- Veterans Benefits Administration: Provides additional software licenses and telework support for staff, and enhances cleaning contracts. ($13M)
- Emergency Management: Expands and maintains 24-hour operations of Crisis Response and Continuity of Operations Plan implementation at various sites. Expands cleaning and sanitation service in high traffic facilities. ($6M)
- Telemental Health Services for Isolated Veterans: Authorizes VA to expand mental health services delivered via telehealth and enter into short-term agreements with telecommunication companies to provide veterans with temporary broadband services.
- Treatment of State Homes During Public Health Emergency: Directs VA to maintain per diem payments, and to provide State Homes with personal protective equipment, medicine, and cleaning supplies.
- Modifications to the Veteran Directed Care Program: Temporarily waives the in-person home visit requirement to enroll and permits telephone and telehealth visits as an alternative. Prohibits suspension or disenrollment from the program during a public health emergency.
- Provision of Prosthetic Appliances through Non-department Providers: Ensures veterans with limb loss can utilize community-based prosthetics.
- Waiver of Pay Caps for VA Employees During Public Health Emergencies: Waives federal pay caps for VA employees responding during COVID-19 emergency so they can be compensated for all hours worked.
- Provisions of Personal Protective Equipment for VA Home Health Workers: Requires VA to provide personal protective equipment to VA community-based home health workers.
- Clarification of Treatment of Payments for Purposes of Eligibility for Veterans pension and Other Veteran Benefits: Ensures that veterans receiving a 2020 Recovery Rebate under the CARES Act do not suffer a loss or reduction of any VA benefits.
- Telehealth for Case Managers and Homeless Veterans: Ensures telehealth capabilities are available for case managers and homeless veterans participating in the HUD–VASH program.
- Financial Assistance for Supportive Services for Very Low-Income Veteran Families: Waives any limits on grant amounts and rates for Per Diem payments for temporary housing to maximize social distancing within the vulnerable homeless veteran population.
- Modifications to Comprehensive Service Programs for Homeless Veterans: Waives funding limits for financial assistance for supportive services for very low-income veteran families in permanent housing during the public health emergency.
VA will likely need assistance in caring for the nation’s veterans and boosting agency operations during the coronavirus crisis. Medical staffing companies, medical equipment and supply companies, administrative services providers, construction companies and other contractors may find opportunities to assist VA in providing care, preparing facilities and fighting COVID-19 through the additional funding provided by this stimulus package.