JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The VA Secretary says the plan he implemented in January equipped the health care system to properly care for veterans during the coronavirus outbreak.
Robert Wilkie has family in the Delta and a concern for veterans, coming from a military family.
As Memorial Day approaches, he thanked veterans and praised VA employees who were deployed to New Orleans and across the south.
Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said the G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center will soon begin normal operations after the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
According to officials, the Jackson facility treated 86 positive cases. Five veterans died.
There are 20 active cases, 18 veterans and two employees. Sixty-one veterans are in recovery.
"Our veterans in Mississippi will start getting notices from us about coming back for physicals and wellness visits and going back for physical therapy and all of those routine things that we were used to having before the epidemic hit," said Wilkie.
During the past two months, stresses increased for veterans dealing with mental health issues.
About 4,000 with PTSD are treated at the Jackson VA.
According to Wilkie, Nationwide monthly mental health telehealth therapy sessions rose from 40,000 to 154,000.
The Jackson VA serves about 43,000 veterans a year. Roughly 4,000 are diagnosed with PTSD.
“We’ve actually expanded... given more veterans more options when it comes to mental health and it is a focus for us,” added Wilkie. “We treat mental health in ways that the rest of the country does not, and we are on the cutting edge."
Wilkie, a Navy veteran and Colonel in the U.S.Air Force Reserve, has ties to the Mississippi. His father and great grandfather both served in the military in Vietnam and World War I.
"We spent a lot of time on South Victoria Avenue there in Cleveland in Bolivar county, and I still consider that a very important part of my family," said the Veteran Affairs leader.
The VA hospitals in Arkansas recently reopened. Mississippi facilities in Jackson and Biloxi are online to resume operations soon.