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The VA’s disaster preparedness team
VA clinics new design
The VA clinic at the corner of Oglethorpe Highway and Memorial Drive.

Did you know the Department of Veterans Affairs has a disaster preparedness team? They do, and it’s called the Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS). 

Part of DEMPS is the National Emergency Medical Response Teams: medical and nonmedical volunteers on call for two months at a time who are able to deploy within 48 hours after either the VA requests help or there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration. Whether it’s a flood, earthquake or other natural disaster, once a Presidential Declaration is issued the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jump in. That’s when the VA’s DEMPS programs can be activated.

The VA isn’t just helping veterans during this coronavirus crisis. Per its fourth mission (to support the country in emergencies), the VA started up its 3D printing network to test designs of medical equipment. Along with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s creating 3D prototypes of face shields, masks and ventilators. 

Additionally, at the request of FEMA, the VA has made 1,500 beds available across the country for nonveterans who need acute and intensive care. In some places it’s sent additional medical staff to state veterans homes, given clinical support to the homeless, loaned a pharmacy trailer to a medical center and built a hospital with 1,000 beds. As of this writing, DEMPS has moved into Louisiana to help with the explosion of coronavirus cases, and the VA is seeking medical professionals to help with intensive care units as well as biomedical technicians with ventilator experience.

If you have a nonessential medical need, call your VA facility and talk to them. You might decide to postpone your visit for a little while. Or perhaps you can be seen via Telehealth, either on your tablet or computer.

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