When the COVID-19 pandemic caused VA health care facilities nationwide to close their doors to visitors for the safety of hospitalized veterans and staff, the Minneapolis VA Health Care System put plans in motion to provide virtual visitor opportunities. Those plans involved an $18,000 Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) grant from The American Legion.
On July 30, 50 Apple iPads were presented to VA Minneapolis Director Pat Kelly to help connect inpatient veterans face-to-face virtually with their loved ones during this ongoing pandemic.
“This is just one more example, a continued example of the incredible support we get from all of our service organizations, but I really want to distinguish the work we have been doing and the help we have been getting from The American Legion,” Kelly said during the presentation outside the Minneapolis VA where American Legion Department of Minnesota leadership were present. “Thank you, The American Legion. This is really going to help us.”
The OCW grant was made possible thanks to the efforts of American Legion Department of Minnesota Service Officer Jeremy Wolfsteller, whose office is located next to the polytrauma unit at the Minneapolis VA. He was informed by the telehealth coordinator and assistive technology program coordinator of their need for iPads.
“(The OCW grant) demonstrates The American Legion’s longtime support and advocacy for the VA,” Wolfsteller said. “The American Legion always stands ready, and it’s here to assist the VA in its mission.”
Wolfsteller put in an OCW grant application for the iPads back in April, a time when iPads were in high demand due to schools nationwide moving to e-learning because of COVID-19. It took until July for the iPads to arrive because of the backlog. “We are so happy to bring these to the VA. And get them into the patient hands,” Wolfsteller said.
Kelly said outside communication has been limited for COVID-19 patients. “In some cases, the veterans are dying and this (iPad) provides a way for them to reach and talk with families.”
He also added that while veterans come to the VA for their health care needs, they also have social needs and “need to be connected to their families and loved ones. (The iPads) enables that connection.
“Without these iPads we would not be able to facilitate the same level of social support that our veterans get because of the work of The American Legion. So we are incredibly grateful.”