The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will make beds in VA facilities available to residents of Florida nursing homes that have no power, Sen. Bill Nelson said Thursday.
Nelson said he saw that the VA had done so with refugees from the U.S. Virgin Islands, accepting them into the VA hospital at Puerto Rico, and asked them Wednesday, before news of the horrific six-death incident in Hollywood, if the same could be done in Florida.
“I called the VA secretary [David Shulkin] yesterday,” Nelson said. “He said, ‘Absolutely!’ He said, ‘You have my authority to make that happen.'”
Nelson said he’s now working with an assistant secretary to get it done.
Nelson said he is not certain how many beds might be available in Florida’s VA facilities.
The VA issued a release Thursday saying that Shulkin has been working with both Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Nelson and their staffs on this issue beginning yesterday evening.
“We thank Governor Scott and Senator Nelson for involving VA and are grateful we can help our fellow citizens where we can in this time of need,” Shulkin stated in the release. “All Americans are pulling together to help one another, and we must make a special effort for those most vulnerable to the conditions brought on by the storm.”
The VA has the ability to make its facilities available to non-veterans as part of its fourth mission, to support national, state and local emergency management, public health, safety and homeland security efforts and also through a mission agreement with FEMA under a Stafford Act Declaration.
Shulkin agreed to make more beds available to non-veteran nursing home residents as needed and free, while ensuring we continue our primary mission of providing healthcare to Veterans, the release stated.
The VA is also working closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the overall response to Irma, in addition to this specific issue.