Military and Veterans FAQs
- What is the date & time of the Military and Veterans Sector telebriefing?
The weekly military and veterans sector telebriefing are Thursdays, at 10:00 AM.
- Where can we find information about local communities online or webinars to help us manage the stress of all of this COVID-19?
To find information about local communities online or webinars to help manage the stress visit the County of San Diego website (Coronavirus-sd.com), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website (CDC.gov) or call the San Diego Access Crisis Line at (888)-724-7240. Other resources available include Courage to Call (877) 698-7838 or dial 2-1-1 and select option 4, or online chat at www.courage2call.org.Contact your Employee Assistance Program (EPA) if you or your spouse's employeroffers an EPA.
- Is Veterans Affairs still processing claims and disabilities?
Yes, the San Diego County Office of Military and Veterans Affairs are still processing claims and disabilities. For more information call (858)-694-3222 or visit SanDiegoCounty.gov.
- How often should I clean the cloth mask I use to cover my face?
The cloth mask should be cleaned after each outing to prevent the spread of the disease. If you leave your house multiple times a day, please change your cloth mask to prevent the spread of the disease.
- How is the County EOC working with the EOCs on Navy and Marine Corps installations to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
County and military installations staff worked together to train military personnel on how to prevent the spread of the virus. The County shared the daily Situation Report with military commanders, and other agencies within the County, to show how the County maintains communication within the various sectors. The County provides real-time information to the San Diego community via a daily press conference and weekly telebrief from multiple sectors. The County liaison with military medical personnel to keep track of COVID-19 positives cases.
- Are military bases required to adhere to the County Public Health Orders?
Although military installations do not have to follow the County Public Health Orders, they do so to maintain continuity throughout San Diego County. Military installations adhere to the County Public Health Orders as long as the orders do not affect military operations.
- Are there volunteer organizations veterans can join to help fellow San Diegans?
Yes, volunteers can register at Justserve.org, TeamRubicon.org, and the Medical Reserve Corp at MRC.hhs.gov. There are several projects listed by the County on these websites (i.e. food distribution/delivery or assembly of hygiene kits, etc.)
- If there is no Compensation & Pension Exam for veterans because of COVID-19 restrictions, will the VA award a rating based only on documentations?
The VA will rate veterans based on their military records. Physical examinations would be conducted at a later time.
- With the added pressure to lift the lockdowns under the guise of “freedom,” can you please clarify the reason(s) for continuing social distancing?
To decrease the risk of transmitting the virus between people. Increasing the distance and source control, such as face coverings, helps to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.
- If we have constituents coming to us asking where to donate PPE, would the best place to connect them to be the county OES office?
PPE can be donated at firstname.lastname@example.org, 1800 258-0007.
- What authorities does the county have over incorporated cities?
Incorporated cities that do not have their own public health systems are contracted with the County Public Health Office and abide by the County Public Health Orders. Public Health Orders given by the state or the region prevails over any orders given by incorporated cities.
- We keep hearing conflicting information regarding testing. Nationally we are told that anyone that wants a test can have one, but at the state and local levels we’re still only testing critically ill. Are we able to test asymptomatic people? Then, where are we with respect to contact tracing as well as antibody testing?
The County is testing much more than the severely ill. The current recommendation is to not test asymptomatic people unless they are working in close settings (i.e., Senior Living facilities, Health Centers, prison systems) as proving they don’t have it today doesn’t mean they won’t have it in the next few days. In terms of antibody testing, it is still a very complicated testing procedure, and we do not yet have the tools to fully understand how it works.
- How has the Pandemic affected the suicide rate amongst veterans?
There is no evidence that the pandemic has affected the veterans’ suicide rate. The pandemic has affected veterans the same way it has impacted everyone; physically, socially, and economically. Those factors have a significant impact on how veterans receive care from the VA medical facilities. For more information, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1800-273-8255.
- Are there respite services we can highlight so caregivers can get a break?
The Horse of the Sun Ranch is a great respite service for caregivers. It gives caregivers an opportunity to take a break and recover from their daily activities. Also, the staff at ASYMCA San Diego can provide respite services to military caregivers and families. For more information, please visit Asysd.org
Southern Caregiver Resource Center offers free and confidential caregiver support services from clinical coaching (Operation Family Caregiver, which specifically supports military and veteran caregivers), respite, bilingual education and programs, and more. For more information, please contact scrc. care or call (800) 827-1008.
- What is the VA doing in offering COVID Testing? Do veterans have to make appointments to get tested or can they walk-in?
The VA has implemented a curbside testing program that is available by appointment. It is recommended that you contact your healthcare provider first before going to the VA hospital, however, in severe cases, the VA can test walk-ins and has a 24-hour turnaround time for COVID-19 testing.
- The VA has a program where they’re supposed to call Veterans several times right after they get out of the military to make sure veterans get connected. Are transitioning veterans getting contacted as scheduled or have there been any disruptions due to the shelter at home requirements?
The program is called the Solid Start Program and because of the pandemic, there has been a delay with contacting veterans who have transitioned out of the military. The VA is continuing to figure out ways to keep the contact list updated. Those who have transitioned will be contacted, the process is taking a little longer because of the current climate. For more information, please the benefits.va.gov.
- Yesterday Governor Newsom touted how well the State is doing on COVID testing. He also indicated citizens could seek information on getting the testing paid. How is the County’s testing program doing compared with the State’s and where can I go to get more information on testing to include how to get it paid for?
The state has opened sites in Chula Vista, El Cajon and Escondido to test for active COVID-19 infection. You need to make an appointment. Testing is free, and you do not need to have symptoms. Appointments can be made online or by calling 888-634-1123. For more information on testing, please visit Coronavirus-SD.com.
- Earlier this week during the County press conference, County suicide rates was brought up in relation to the COVID pandemic. Has there been an increase in suicides or other mental health issues as it relates to people dealing with the stay-at-home orders and the pandemic in general?
There has not been an increase in suicide rates in San Diego County, however, there has been an increase in fatalities due to substance abuse. There is an opioid epidemic that is nationwide and impacting San Diego. Fentanyl contamination of cocaine and other street drugs have led to clusters of overdoses in San Diego, including incidents in the last few weeks.
- In addition to VANC and Meals on Wheels, are there any services providing pick-up/delivery of food distribution items to homebound elderly Veterans in the North County, specifically Escondido area?
Few faith-based organizations are providing pick-up/delivery of food distribution items to homebound elderly Veterans in North County. Interfaith Food Bank is one of the organizations providing those services to people in North County. 2-1-1 is a great resource for food banks or meals on wheels. For additional local resources, service members, Veterans, Family members, and Community service providers can contact Courage to Call for available food resources: 877-698-7838 or https://www.courage2call.org/
- What about emails and calls selling COVID-19 test kits?
If you received emails and/or calls selling COVID-19 test kits, call the District Attorney Hotline at (619)- 531-3507 to report the company or individual selling the test kits.
- Is the VA Hospital admitting patients and keeping appointments?
Yes, the VA Hospital is admitting patients and keeping appointments. The VA hospital is postponing care if it is not an emergency or convert to virtual care. Call your healthcare provider before going to the hospital to receive assistance on how to proceed with your appointments.
- What about veterans who are on the choice program or receiving non-VA care, if their provider isn't seeing patients?
The VA Hospital is admitting patients and taking appointments. If it's a non-emergency medical appointment, the VA hospital will provide virtual care. For County assistance dial 2-1-1 and select option 4. Call your healthcare provider before going to the hospital to receive further assistance on how to proceed.
- Is the VA hospital conducting COVID-19 testing?
Yes, the VA hospital is conducting COVID-19 tests. The VA has administered over 7,425 COVID-19 tests nationwide as of March 26, while taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission. For further assistance, visit publichealth.va.gov.
- Can medicine be picked up at the VA La Jolla?
Yes, the VA pharmacy is open.
- Dr. Smith, would talk about the VA’s 4th Mission that Secretary Wilke enacted, using VA beds for some non-COVID-19 positive patients? I think it was enacted in NYC, but not sure how I will affect SD County.
The 4th mission is to support FEMA in national emergencies when tasked. San Diego VAMC has not been tasked but has been asked to determine available assets if tasked.
Active Duty Military
- If a service member is separating or retiring in the near future, how can he or she meet proper deadlines if most support offices are closed? Examples include scheduling a final PCS, completing a separation physical, and claiming disabilities with the VA.
Military installations are still processing separation and retirement. The VA and San Diego County's Office of Military and Veterans Affairs are still processing disability claims. People who are coming from overseas that are transitioning out of the military will have to go through the 14-day quarantine process. Once the quarantine is complete, they will go through the separation process. Although the VA is not conducting the in-person VA TAP classes, VA is offering the TAP course on DOD’s on-line portal called Joint Knowledge Online (JKO). VA is still offering Service members and their Families 1-on-1 sessions which are being conducted by the contracted Benefits Advisors via conference call.
- Do the County's current COVID-19 cases include military cases?
Yes, the County's current COVID-19 cases do include military cases.
- If I have a non-COVID-19 related illness or injury and need to receive medical attention, do I need to contact Balboa Naval Medical Center first or can I just show up?
If you need urgent medical care, please show up at the Naval Medical Center. For things that are not urgent, please contact your medical facility first before showing up to the hospital. Non-emergency medical care can be processed via virtual care.
- If my spouse is deployed and I begin to show signs and symptoms of COVID-19, what should I do with my kids while I am in isolation?
Having a family care plan is really important. Prior to deploying, active duty personnel are required to complete a family care plan. If you show signs and symptoms of COVID-19, treat it as a cold and sanitize the surface areas in the house frequently. If you have a fever and cough, please use a face covering to prevent the spread of the disease.
- As of April 6th, the Navy has issued new guidance requiring the wearing of face coverings for all personnel on base, including family members. Is there an age limit to this requirement for children and newborns?
Do not put the face mask on children under two years old and people who are not able to remove a mask. The mask is to help people that are around you, not for the individual wearing it. The child daycare centers on base are open for mission-essential personnel. Military installations are following the face-covering procedure issued out by DOD, NAVADMIN, and MARADMIN.
- I’m active duty and will EAS within 6-months? Does the military plan to initiate “Stop Loss” measures?
The DOD is looking at whether or not "Stop Loss" will be required. Right now, there is not a plan to initiate "Stop Loss" procedures. Those who will EAS within the next 6-month will be able to transition out of the military.
- To reduce the spread of COVID-19, I have noticed sometimes security forces will not touch CAC cards of oncoming personnel. What are navy installations doing to maintain force protection while also trying to limit the spread of contamination?
Normally drivers would present their military ID card to the sentries at the gate, and a sentry would physical and visually inspect and scan the ID. Due to the pandemic, measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the disease. Sentries will visually inspect (front and back) and scan the ID to allow visitors on base. Sentries at the gate and visitors to the base are required to wear a mask; If visitors do not have a mask, they are to take precautions not to expose the sentries to respiratory droplets. Military Police (MP) will not physically show up to an accident site to take accident reports. Drivers are to report accidents over the phone and an MP will file the report.
- With unemployment rates rising and social distancing still in effect, has Fleet and Family established a way for military members and their families to meet virtually to utilize resources in your office? An example would be establishing a Zoom workshop to discuss financial management or spouse employment.
a) our personnel to continue to focus on fulfilling the Navy Fleet and Family Support Centers’ emerging mission requirements. CNIC is directing the temporary approval of telephonic and virtual platforms to assist FFSC staff to continue to serve our clients until such time that the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. You can find your installation’s Fleet and Family Support Center to schedule a telehealth counseling session by clicking HERE.
- What resources at fleet and family can quarantined service members utilize to maintain a healthy mindset?
The Fleet and Family Support Center have a variety of resources available to service members and their families to including several counseling options and family activities. For more information, please visit navy.mil. For additional resources, visit Military OneSource at http://www.militaryonesource.mil/ or call 1-800-342-9647v. For additional counseling services, please visit the Armed Services YMCA San Diego website. ASYMCA offers TeleHealth Clinical Counseling, Drive Through Food Drive Registration is 6 PM via Facebook @ASYSanDiego and Online Programming as well.
- Is there a way for veterans to virtually access the Navy’s Retired Activities Program?
The Navy’s Retired Activities Program cannot be accessed virtually. However, veterans can call 1-(833)-330-6622 to obtain information about the Navy’s Retired Activities Program.
- What is the best way service members and the public can receive updated information about military installations in response to COVID-19?
The best way for service members and the public to receive information about military installations in response to COVID-19 is to visit the installation’s website or visit the County of San Diego Military and Veterans Sector’s website for up to date information. For more information in response to COVID-19, please visit the County of San Diego website coronavirus-sd.com/.
- With the understanding that everything is on hold and that it is PCS season, some people already received orders but cannot execute them. Civilian operated facilities are closed on most military installations (base housing, movers, etc.) In addition, the closure of non-essential businesses has inadvertently created a hiring freeze and prevented active-duty spouses from finding a job. What is being done to assist two-income households that are unable to find a job after the disease is contained?
The Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) is working with military spouses to help them find a job. FFSC asked that military spouses change the field that they are currently in if they can’t find a job, to make it easier to place them in an available field. FFSC is working with spouses and family virtually. For more information, please visit the Fleet and Family Support Center website.
- Can you speak to the San Diego County Medical Reserve Corps?
The San Diego Medical Reserve Corps, or MRC, is a community-based group of local medical and health workers who can serve as volunteers during a local health emergency. The San Diego Medical Reserve Corps continues to look for licensed clinicians with current active and unencumbered licenses who are interested in and are readily available to support COVID-19 response activities, such as handling medical-related phone inquiries, assisting with training/presentations to healthcare entities, serving at a call center, and other related support activities. The MRC is currently in need of Infectious Disease Specialists, Infection Control Nurses, and Epidemiologists. However, a wide range of licensed medical and/or mental health professionals can also volunteer, including Physicians and physician assistants, Nurses (including nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses and certified nurse assistants), Psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, Paramedics and emergency medical technicians, Dentists, Veterinarians, and Other health professionals and non-medical volunteers. If you are interested in joining the San Diego’s Medical Reserve Corp, please email MRC-VOLCOORD.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov or you may also register directly on the state website https://healthcarevolunteers.ca.gov/index.php.
- While the VA Military Services Coordinators that Pat Prieb spoke about being able to help our transitioning service members with VA concerns, how is Navy Region Southwest helping these service members connect to LOCAL area resources for other needs - post-service employment, education/credential programs, basic needs (housing, food security, etc.) when they are now just getting access to the federal online transitioning courses? Are they telling them about zero8hundred, USO Pathfinder or Courage2Call?
The military is not implementing “Stop Loss,” however, the military gives service members the option to stay active until the pandemic is over or if they prefer to reenlist. Service members are still able to transition from the military, and they are being informed of the resources available to them. Transition assistance is available via a virtual conference brief. TAPS are currently suspended as of March 30th due to physical distancing guidelines. Post-911 GI Bill benefits are continuing uninterrupted; VA will not deny C&P exams claims, but physical distancing guidelines have limited the number of C&P exams that can be done. For more information, visit VA.gov. Navy Region Southwest Fleet & Family Services are still working with zero8hunred and other organizations they have been working with before the pandemic.
- Could you provide an update on CDC operations and drop-in childcare aboard NMC?
Childcare aboard NMC is open to active duty military. The childcare facilities are taking precautionary measures to ensure children are safe and not expose to anything that can cause a child to become sick. Children are kept at one section of the childcare facilities while the other end is kept empty, sanitized, and ready to use in case of an emergency. Children are monitored every day for symptoms, and parents are informed if a child needs to stay home for quarantine purposes.
- Are veterans with disabilities or retires allowed to come in on-base and use the commissaries and NEX's?
There are no restrictions or changes to base access. If veterans and/or retirees had access to military bases prior to the pandemic, they still have access. Some bases have instituted restrictive hours (active duty, veterans, seniors), however, access to the base has not changed.
- What about getting a base ID now for newly married wives?
They can make online ID card appt here: https://rapids-appointments.dmdc.osd.mil/
- What specific things has the Naval Medical Center done to support both active duty and veteran service members and their families during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Naval Medical Center is constantly working on ways to keep the active-duty military, veterans, and their families healthy. The Naval Medical Center has come up with different ways to provide healthcare to the military community; 70 percent of appointments are virtual (most over the phone), and Inpatient Care has over 120 negative pressure rooms. The Naval Medical Center has a contingency plan for a surge of positives for COVID-19. There’s a system to rapidly test active duty members to make sure they are healthy.
If the public is having any other type of serious illness (e.g: broken bone, chest pain, etc), know it is safe to go to the Emergency department to be treated. Measures are being taken to ensure the safety and health of all patients.
- Has Balboa Naval Hospital been supporting other local hospitals and healthcare clinics by taking non-military COVID-19 patients?
Balboa Naval hospital is very integrated with the community. There has not been a need for the Naval hospital to provide support to other local hospitals and healthcare clinics. The naval hospital is ready to provide the necessary support if the County is in need.
- What is the status of the Navy medical ship “Mercy”? How many local area sailors and medical personnel are serving on it and when do we think it will return to San Diego?
The County of Los Angeles continues to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the Navy medical ship Mercy is an important asset to LA County. There are almost 1,000 people from San Diego Medical Center on the Naval medical ship, Mercy. There has not been a specified date when the Mercy will return to San Diego.
- Does the Naval Medical Center have to comply with County Public Health Orders? Specifically, has the Naval hospital began to conduct elective-type surgeries or procedures based on the most recent County Public Health Order?
The Naval Medical Center does not have to comply with County Public Health Orders. That being said, the Naval Medical Center complies with County Public Health Orders to maintain continuity. Elective-type surgeries are currently on hold until further notice.
- On 30 April the current County Public Health Order that contains numerous COVID-19 related public restrictions (Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions) expires. What should the public expect to see from the County on May 1st regarding opening the County and other jurisdictions?
The County leadership is working to make sure the public has the necessary information to make just decisions. Tune in on your local tv stations for the County’s daily press conference at 2:30 PM or on the County’s social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook: @SanDiegoCounty. For more information, please visit the County website at Coronavirus-SD.com.
- On Tuesday (28 April) during his press conference, the Governor provided an update on the State’s plan to modify the Stay-At-Home order? Can you comment on that plan and how it impacts the County’s efforts to re-open?
The state of California and San Diego county both have plans that need to be aligned to begin the process of re-opening the County. The County has laid out six-requirements that have to be met to begin the process of re-opening and, once the County has met all those requirements, the process to re-open will be initiated.
- What about childcare for parents while going to an appointment? Is this available now? Especially important now that children are not in school.
The Naval Medical Center has the capability to provide childcare for parents attending appointments, but the Naval Medical Center does not recommend bringing children to the hospital. If you are urgently ill and need emergency care, the Naval Medical center has the capability to provide childcare support, but children who are not ill should come to the hospital only as a last resort.
- Captain Smith, regarding active duty service members, have you seen a flattening of the curve or an increase in cases?
There has been a flattening of the curve at the Naval Medical Center, however, other military installations have had an increase in cases due to military members coming from other states. Balboa Naval Hospital has seen a decrease in cases and a flattening of the curve. Military installations will continue to monitor the situation and implement measures that will decrease the number of positive cases.
- With testing becoming more available, it is likely we will see a spike in positive cases? How will you differentiate between a rise in cases as a result of more testing and a rise in cases because the virus is spreading?
The County is working to find positive cases to prevent the spread of the virus. The County wants to help isolate those individuals and those with whom they have been in contact. An increase in positive cases due to testing is a good thing, it means the County can implement contact tracing procedures to identify those people who may have been infected. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, contact your local healthcare provider immediately to try to get tested. If you cannot get tested, call 211 to be connected with a Public Health nurse to see if you can get scheduled with a County drive through testing site.
- Any new info on the length of incubation time?
14 days or two weeks is still the recommended length of the incubation period.
- Who is conducting the contact tracing?
County Public Health Officers are conducting contact tracing.
- Regarding summer programs for kids through the YMCA, do you foresee these continuing and if they will be, do you see the groups being smaller or limited to family members? Would there possibly be more opportunities with limitations on how many a family can sign up for?
The summer programs for kids will require ASYMCA to screen staff members daily and ensure families are comfortable with them participating in the summer program. If a staff member gets sick, they will have to go through the proper COVID-19 procedures before returning to the program; that may limit the size of the groups. Currently, there is a 1 to 9 ratio of staff members to kids participating in the program. The 1 to 9 ratio is having one staff meber for every nine kids. Children and the staff member are together throughout the program, without changing groups but they do change activities. These activities are thoroughly cleaned between groups. The program also provides respite services for military families and caregivers.
- Does the ASYMCA San Diego need volunteers? If so, in what areas and with what skill sets are most required? And how do people go about volunteering?
Normally, ASYMCA has an extensive volunteering program through Veterans Affairs. However, because of the pandemic, the volunteering program is limited. ASYMCA is looking for volunteers for the Horse of the Sun Ranch and the multiple committees in the Organizations. For more information, please visit asymca.org.
- I have heard a lot about the County’s COVID Testing strategy – the “T3 strategy”. What does “T3” stand for and why is conducting mass testing so important with cases coming down?
T3 stands for Test, Trace, and Treat. The strategy is to locate asymptomatic individuals who may be positive for COVID-19. Once those individuals are identified, the tracing process involves contacting people the asymptomatic (positive for COVID-19 without symptoms) individuals have been in contact with to test if they are positive for COVID-19, and isolate (treat) those individuals. Mass testing is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Community density helps to spread the virus and San Diego County has several communities that are within proximity.
- Will people have to get a COVID test before they can go back to work? And if so, how often will they need to get retested.
People will not have to get tested to go back to work, but the option is available for employees to get tested. It is recommended that people who work in close proximity, and in environments that are frequently exposed to COVID-19, get tested before going back to work.
- Is it possible for COVID-19 to be transmitted to pets? If so, what is being done to monitor and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in pets on a local level?
COVID-19 can be transmitted from people to pets. It is recommended that pet owners practice the same COVID-19 preventive procedures with their pets that they are practicing with themselves and family members. If you come down sick, isolate yourself from you family members, including pets, to reduce the risk. The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. For more information, please visit the Center for Disease and Prevention website at CDC.gov.
- Is the ASYMCA San Diego telehealth for active-duty only?
Normally ASYMCA San Diego telehealth is for active-duty spouses only, but because of the current climate, the ASYMCA is extending its services to everyone. For more information, please visit asymca.org.
Veterans Living Abroad
- What can veterans living abroad do about medicines needed from the Veterans Affairs?
Continue to do the same thing you were doing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The VA hospital will mail your prescriptions to your place of residence. VA Hospital providers cannot travel to Mexico to provide physical care because they are not licensed to work in Mexico. Call your healthcare provider before going to the VA hospital for further assistance on how to proceed.
- Will telehealth be made available to veterans living in Mexico?
Yes, telehealth is available to veterans living in Mexico depending if they have the technological capabilities. The VA healthcare personnel are not licensed in Mexico, however, they can prescribe something to be picked up locally.
For additional questions and resources, please email: COVID-Military-Veterans@sdcounty.ca.gov