VA Secretary to California: Turn the lights back on to protect veterans

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By Connecting Vets

Amid rolling blackouts in California leaving millions without power are veterans who need electricity to power home health devices, refrigerate medicine or who need medical care at hospitals and clinics going dark. 

On Monday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, concerned that Pacific Gas and Electric Company's decision to cut off power to thousands of Californians could put veterans at risk. 

"This action and possibly future ones like it could create significant life-threatening issues for the region's veterans and their families, as well as VA community care partners attempting to provide essential health care services," Wilkie wrote. 

About 5.2 percent of California's population are veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Wilkie's letter, he says California is home to more than 1.6 million veterans and their families. 

While VA hospitals are capable of generating back-up power, VA can't guarantee the same for individual veterans who need care at home or for VA's network of private doctors in its community care program. 

"Power outages could become dangerous for veterans receiving in-home care and those who rely on power for the refrigeration of life-saving medications like insulin," Wilkie wrote. "With so many veterans dependent on these necessities, the uncertainty these power outages pose is extremely troubling."

Wilkie asked Newsom to restore "power certainty" to California, "including veterans who depend on power for their health and safety." 

AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chennelly said the VSO was working with VA to connect at-risk veterans in California with resources needed to survive the blackouts. 

"It is dire for many," he said. 

Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett.
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