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VA standing watch for veterans in the storm


Eastern NC veterans have a new tip hotline to report issues with care at the VA Health Care Center in Greenville. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Friday, September 14, 2018

Pitt County VA officials are prepared to protect the health and welfare of veterans and those who provide their care during the Hurricane Florence crisis, officials at the Veterans Administration Greenville Health Care Center said on Wednesday.

The Durham VA Health Care System, which oversees operations in Greenville, Pitt and dozens of surrounding eastern counties, issued a series of hotline numbers, managed by the VA Health Resource Center, that veterans and system employees can call for information and assistance during the hurricane period.

■ Veteran Hurricane Hotline Number: 1-800-507-4571

■ Employee Disaster Hotline Number: 1-866-233-0152

■ Veterans Benefits Hotline Number: 1-800-827-1000

■ Pharmacy Customer Care 1- 866-400-1243

“We’ll be available 24/7 for veterans who might get displaced from their homes, those who live in areas of mandatory evacuation or those who just want to feel safer,” said Jonathan Forte, administrator of the Greenville health care center. “Any veteran, family member, caregiver or center employee can reach out to the health resource center and find information about the closest available VA clinic location that they might not normally use for care, get medication refills, find out about health benefits or just get a needed checkup.”

The VA care centers in Greenville and Morehead City serve more than 25,000 eastern North Carolina veterans, including those with disabilities and severe limitations that can impact their ability to cope with a hurricane.

“We’ve made contact with 100 percent of who we consider our vulnerable veteran patients, including those on oxygen or ventilators, bedbound veterans in our home-based primary care program and all those who we consider to be at high risk,” Forte said. “We’ve made sure they have appropriate extra supplies and medications to get them through the storm, and we’ve made sure they have evacuation plans in place in the even they lose power for an extended period.”

The VA also worked closely with state and local first responders to identify vulnerable veterans before Florence stikes land, he said.

“If and when the time comes, the VA will provide that needed assistance, either through VA staff, local first responders or the National Guard,” Forte said. 

The Morehead City VA health clinic closed on Tuesday when a mandatory evacuation order was posted for Carteret County. The Greenville health care center was set to assist veterans with medication refills and primary care checkups before it closed at noon on Thursday.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs fourth mission is emergency preparedness and disaster response,” Forte said. “Our responsibility is to look out for our veterans who have served us, and their families and caregivers, and be sure they are adequately prepared to weather the effects of Hurricane Florence or any other natural or man-made disaster.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.