Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Jonathan Kaupanger, veterans, Veterans Affairs

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As Irma looms, VA in Florida and Caribbean hunkered down

3741593 As Irma looms, VA in Florida and Caribbean hunkered down

Coast Guard Sector San Juan personnel put up a safety message on the base housing marquee sign to remind the Coast Guard residence of the coming Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. (Photo credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally.)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

(VAMC closure information updated 9/7/17 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern)

The most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded, Irma, has hit land in the Caribbean. Clean-up from Harvey is just beginning and there’s already another tropical storm, Jose, expected to become a hurricane by tonight.  And the VA is ready.

All outpatient appointments and elective procedures at all the clinics in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin islands have been canceled.  The emergency room at the San Juan VA Hospital in Rio Piedras will continue operations.  The VAMC has staff coverage and supplies to continue services to veterans who are currently inpatients.

The San Juan Regional Benefit Office is closed.  The national cemetery Bayamon is closed and all services have been rescheduled or postponed.

The Miami Healthcare System is closed through at least Monday, Sept. 11.  Homestead VA clinic is closing today at 3:00 p.m. and the Bruce W. Carter VAMC is closing tomorrow at noon.  The VAMC and all satellite clinics has canceled all scheduled and walk-in appointments through Monday as well.

The Miami VA Healthcare System has activated the Emergency Operations Center. The VA has to react a little differently here, than how it did in Houston, where the medical center was used as a shelter during the storm.  The Miami medical center is NOT a hurricane shelter.  You can find information on hurricane shelters here for Broward County, Miami-Dade County and Monroe County.

VA’s facilities in Key West and Key Largo are closed until at least Monday, Sept. 11, all other facilities including Vet Centers in Fort Lauderdale, Key Largo and Miami are open. Patients with scheduled appointments at the VA’s closed clinics will be contacted to reschedule.  All surgical and outpatient procedures are canceled through the end of this week.

The West Palm Beach VAMC and all its clinics are open and under normal operations.  Outpatient clinics will close tomorrow through Monday.  Patients receiving dialysis will be called in individually for their appointments.  Vet Centers in Palm beach and Jupiter will be closed tomorrow through Monday. Patients with appointments through Monday will be rescheduled.

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System is closing the CBOC’s at Naples tomorrow through Friday.   Port Charlotte, Sebring and Lee County CBOC’s will be closed Monday.

Orlando VAMC is canceling all scheduled appointments for its outpatient clinics in Viera and Daytona Beach beginning tomorrow.  Clinics in Lake Baldwin Lake Nona, Orange City, Clermont, Tavares and Kissimmee are open for scheduled and walk in appointments tomorrow.  All Orlando VAMC clinics will be closed Sept. 9 – 11 with the exception of the Urgent Care facility at 13800 Veterans Way in Lake Nona.

The St. Petersburg Regional Benefit Office in Sunrise and West Palm Beach are closed through Monday, Sept. 11.  The St. Petersburg Regional Office and all remaining out based VBA locations in Florida will be closed through Monday as well.

The Outpatient Pharmacy at the Bruce W. Carter VAMC is open until 8 p.m. daily as is the pharmacy at the William Kling VA Clinic.  VA has activated the Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan for Miami, Orlando, San Juan, Tampa and West Palm Beach.  If you can’t make it to your nearest medical center to refill any VA prescription, you can take your VA ID card and a prescription bottle to either CVS or Walgreens. You then ask the pharmacist to call Heritage Health Solutions Customer Care center at (866) 265-0124.

If you’ve lost your medication and no longer have the written prescription you can contact the Health Resources Center Disaster Hotline at (800) 507-4571 and speak to a representative.

President Trump has declared emergencies in Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico due to Irma.  According to forecasters, the size suggests that the effects from the storm could be felt as far as 200 miles from its center.

There are over half a million veterans feeling the effects from Harvey already, over 100,000 vets call Puerto Rico home. There are more than 1.5 million veterans living in Florida.

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