Durbin Discusses Veterans Issues With Denis McDonough, Biden Nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Denis McDonough, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA). During their Zoom call, Durbin and McDonough discussed the need to address the COVID-19 pandemic and how to ensure veterans and VA staff get vaccinated. Durbin and McDonough also discussed support for State Veterans Homes in Illinois, the expansion of the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, VA medical research, and the targeting of veterans by for-profit colleges. 

“Denis McDonough will lead an agency in need of continued support and modernization, and my hope is that we can work together to help veterans in Illinois and across the country. First and foremost, we have to protect our veterans from this deadly coronavirus, and that starts by ensuring access to vaccines. This will be a challenging job, but I know Denis is up to the task,”Durbin said.

As of January 8, VA officials have reported 7,149 patient deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak (with 17,796 active current cases).  Last month, the VA also began working closely with CDC and others to provide COVID-19 vaccinations, initially to front-line VA health care workers and veterans residing in long-term care units in VA medical centers.  To date, all five Illinois VA hospitals have already received COVID-19 vaccines, and the VA has administered nearly 150,000 vaccinesacross the country.

In addition, the VA continues to provide technical support to State Veterans Homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, including providing one full-time VA infection control expert on detail to support the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs in light of the COVID-19 outbreaks at State Veterans Homes in LaSalle, Manteno, and Quincy.