How can N.J. veterans receive medical care during the coronavirus pandemic?

Posted Apr 14, 2020

New Jersey veterans in need of health care services may be wondering where and how they can receive them as the coronavirus continues to sweep across the state, filling hospitals with a rising number of COVID-19 patients and obligating medical providers to modify their treatment services.

Despite day-to-day changes brought by the spread of the coronavirus, there are multiple avenues that veterans living in the state can pursue to receive proper medical treatment.

Are you a New Jersey veteran with questions about the availability of your health care services in the age of the coronavirus? You will find some answers below.

What do I do if...

I have coronavirus symptoms?

The New Jersey Veterans Affairs hospital in East Orange is conducting coronavirus testing for its patients on weekdays during regular hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The VA Lyons campus is not currently conducting testing, but has a triage tent set up to assist with surge needs. Veterans with symptoms of the coronavirus should inform their VA facility prior to making a visit by calling 1-800-877-6976.

The VA New Jersey Health Care System is also recommending veterans with symptoms of the coronavirus such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, to contact their primary care provider to discuss appointment options.

All patients, visitors and employees of the hospitals are being screened for coronavirus each time they enter the building, and various building entrances have been temporarily restricted.

I have symptoms that are not coronavirus-related?

The New Jersey VA medical centers at East Orange and Lyons continue to provide general medical treatment to veterans, though patients are required to call and make an appointment prior to visiting. The hospitals in both Lyons and East Orange are spacing patient visits in response to COVID-19.

Veterans are also encouraged to receive medical care virtually using VA Telehealth, a phone or video system for communicating with VA providers available Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, they can refill prescriptions and provide updates to their caregivers regarding their current health condition using MyHealtheVet, accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Veterans with an urgent care need should contact their VA health facility via phone or secure messaging prior to going to a clinic or walk-in urgent care facility.

I have a medical emergency?

Veterans experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency should immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Veterans do not need a referral or approval from VA to go to an emergency room in their community.

Symptoms that may need immediate attention include chest pain, numbness or tingling in arms or on one side of the body, severe fever or violent vomiting, or bleeding that doesn’t stop, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.


I have an upcoming VA health appointment?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is recommending veterans cancel or reschedule a routine appointment at a VA hospital and instead use VA Telehealth to connect with their provider.

Veterans can change their in-person appointment to a Telehealth visit by using Secure Messaging through MyHealtheVet to send a message to their provider, and the VA appointments tool to request a Telehealth appointment online.

Veterans may also be contacted by their hospital directly to cancel or reschedule a non-urgent procedure.

Urgent and emergency procedures will continue as scheduled.


I have a community care appointment?

With the exception of emergency and urgent needs, appointments to see community care providers need to be approved by the VA. Community care providers across the state are likely affected by closures, limited services, quarantining or social distancing based on CDC and local health department guidelines, so individuals with scheduled appointments with a community care or non-VA provider should contact them directly before going.

If appointments are canceled, veterans should work with their community care providers to reschedule.

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is extending VA authorizations for community care referrals so veterans can continue to consistently work with their community care providers. Receiving referrals depends on factors including veterans’ eligibility and type of care needed.

Veterans with concerns about rescheduling their community care appointments can send a secure message to their VA provider.


I tried to call my clinic, but I can’t get through?

Because clinics are currently receiving a high volume of calls, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is asking veterans to strictly use online tools, including secure messaging, to address routine or non-urgent health concerns.

The Morristown Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) has been temporarily closed. Morristown providers and staff have been converted to virtual care, and veterans can use VA Telehealth to fulfill their scheduled appointments. For routine or non-urgent concerns, veterans can receive aid through sending a secure message to their provider about any health concerns or questions and downloading the VA Video Connect app to learn more about VA Telehealth.

Clinics in Brick, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Hamilton, Jersey City, Paterson, Piscataway, and Tinton Falls continue to operate during regular hours.


I need to refill or renew my prescription?

Veterans who currently receive their prescriptions in the mail will continue to receive refills on a regular basis. Those who typically pick up their prescription in person can arrange to have it refilled via mail delivery by completing this prescription refill form for each medication, then mailing it to the VA pharmacy listed on the paperwork accompanying their prescription.

Veterans can also arrange to refill or renew their prescriptions online by using the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs prescription refill and tracking tool, or by calling the VA pharmacy at the number listed on their prescription labels. Veterans refilling prescriptions over the phone will be asked to supply both the RX number of their prescription and their Social Security number. The automated phone line may allow veterans to send a request to receive more of a medication that is no longer refillable. For some prescriptions, veterans’ health care teams may contact them first.

All veterans should request their refill or renewal at least 10 days prior to their current prescription running out.


I want to visit a patient at a VA facility?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is recommending veterans postpone their visits to all VA facilities.

No visitors are currently being accepted at the East Orange campus except for veterans on hospice or in the ICU, for which entry is limited to one visitor at a time. No visitors are being admitted for coronavirus patients in the ICU.

No visitors are currently being accepted at the Community Living Center at the Lyons campus except for veterans on hospice, for which entry is limited to one visitor at a time.


I don’t have symptoms, but am worried about my mental health?

Veterans feeling particularly anxious or overwhelmed should keep their existing mental health appointments by changing them to VA Telehealth appointments, which they can do by sending their provider a secure message through MyHealtheVet.

Those in need of same-day mental health care or desiring to request a new appointment or should call their VA facility.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers a list of tips for maintaining mental health.

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