April 24, 2020

Wyden Calls on Trump Administration to Fully Use Defense Production Act & Protect Veterans from COVID-19

“This Administration must prioritize VA’s sacred mission to care for our nation’s veterans who are especially vulnerable during this pandemic”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the Trump administration to make full use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) in order to better protect veterans, health care professionals, Oregonians and all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The depletion of medical supplies nationally and a broken federal procurement and distribution process has left the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—the nation’s largest health care system—scrambling to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), test kits, ventilators and supplies necessary to combat the ongoing public health crisis. In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, Wyden and 15 of his Senate colleagues pushed the administration to fully invoke the DPA to address the nation’s staggering shortage of supplies and the VA’s broken supply chain.

“With the fate of VA’s ability to procure supplies now in the Supply Chain Task Force’s hands, the Administration must act quickly to fix this problem,” the senators wrote “During this time of crisis, it is unconscionable that VA is having to compete for supplies to protect its health care providers and veterans. This Administration must prioritize VA’s sacred mission to care for our nation’s veterans who are especially vulnerable during this pandemic. Working in a more coordinated manner would result in a better outcome for veterans and all Americans.”

Wyden and his colleagues noted that the administration’s procurement and distribution system has forced VA to implement austerity measures that have left health care workers on the front lines scrambling to protect themselves and veterans in the community. The senators urged the Supply Chain Task Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work in a coordinated manner to support VA in its unique mission to serve as the nation’s back-up health care system in times of emergency.

The senators highlighted, “Our nation made promises to provide the care our veterans earned through their service to defend the freedoms we all hold dear. The Administration's slow response and lack of a coordinated nationwide effort undermines the services the VA can provide veterans. As such, the Administration must act aggressively to better utilize all the tools at hand to bring all Americans through this crisis. We must recognize that we share the same goal—to save lives. Making better use of the DPA is one way to do just that.”

Wyden has been pushing the administration to protect those who served our nation against the COVID-19 health crisis as Oregon has experienced COVID-19 deaths in a Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, Ore. and at the Portland VA hospital.

In addition to Wyden, the letter was signed by Senators Jon Tester, D-Mont., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Gary Peters, D-Mich., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.

A copy of the letter is available here.