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VA Secretary visits Salisbury VA Medical Center

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough visited the Salisbury VA Medical Center on Friday to speak with staff, union officials and tour facilities.

Friday’s visit was McDonough’s third to North Carolina, following previous trips to see VA facilities in Charlotte and Greensboro.

“I’m particularly thrilled to be here to say thank you to our remarkable team here a remarkable staff,” McDonough told WBTV at the end of his visit.

“They’ve been working really hard throughout the pandemic. Putting themselves and their families at risk to save the lives of our veterans and every chance I get to come to the field to talk to our great professionals and to thank them I jump at it, and I’ve particularly enjoyed our time here today.”

Since his confirmation, McDonough has highlighted the need to have a skilled, supported workforce in order to deliver the best care possible to veterans.

He discussed several areas of focus with reporters at the end of his visit, including the ongoing vaccine effort and increasing access to mental health services.

McDonough said the Salisbury VAMC has given out roughly 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. That number includes booster shots.

The secretary said that, as of Thursday, the VA had administered more than 400,000 COVID-19 booster shots, or about 15% of all veterans who qualify for a booster.

“The good news about that is that means we’re well above the non veteran population in getting boosters, which is to say veterans are, apparently, quite excited about the opportunity to get the booster but it also means there’s still many who qualify and who are in a position to get the booster,” he said.

McDonough said demand for mental health services at the VA has increased during the pandemic, just like it has among the civilian population.

Chief among the VA’s mental health efforts, he said, is preventing veteran suicide.

“So what I’d say to our veterans is, again, if you’re in crisis, don’t hesitate, reach out. We’re here for you,” he said.

“We also have a range of ways to get access. One is through the community as we’ve just talked about, two is in the direct care system in person and three is through Tele health, so again, if you want access, we’re here for you.”

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