Following Tester Push, FEMA Activates National Response to Increase VA Coronavirus Response Efforts in Montana

Senator: “VA will have a stronger voice in the federal response effort, and be better equipped to handle the growing threat of the virus”

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester applauded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) move to activate the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) to a Level 1, enabling the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to coordinate more closely with federal and non-governmental partners to support the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and state, local, tribal and territorial governments as they respond to COVID-19.

“FEMA rightly activated their national response to a Level 1, enabling VA to increase coordination with federal and local governments, and bolster their efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” said Tester. “That means VA will have a stronger voice in the federal response effort, and be better equipped to handle the growing threat of the virus with additional equipment, staff, and resources. I'll be working closely with VA on this increased effort to protect—and support—local communities in Montana and across the country during this public health crisis.”

Tester has been pushing VA leadership to expand VA’s response efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of this activation, VA staff may be called upon to deploy with FEMA teams to state emergency operation centers, provide health care to first responders, and deploy other health care resources to assist communities in need during the coronavirus crisis. Due to VA’s “Fourth Mission” as an emergency back-up health system during a disaster or pandemic, the Department is uniquely equipped to provide emergency services to both veterans and civilians.

Tester has been working tirelessly to ensure that Montana is prepared to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. He has introduced legislation—now law—to guarantee testing for the virus will be at zero cost, passed bipartisan legislation through the Senate to ensure veterans GI benefits are protected during the outbreak, and successfully pushed the Treasury Department to extend the IRS tax filing deadline. He has also doubled down on his efforts to press the VA, Indian Health Service, FEMA, and HHS to provide veterans, VA healthcare staff, Tribes, and rural communities with access to proper resources and information.