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VA won’t mail out COVID kits, but veterans can get free tests at clinics

For now, the department is not part of the White House effort to send 500 million at-home tests to Americans in coming weeks, free of charge.
A city health department worker in Youngstown, Ohio, grabs two at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out during a distribution event.
A city health department worker in Youngstown, Ohio, grabs two at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out during a distribution event. [ DAVID DERMER | AP ]
Published Jan. 13
Updated Jan. 13

Veterans Affairs officials won’t be mailing out at-home coronavirus kits as demand for the tests skyrockets across America, but they are reminding veterans that department medical facilities can offer free in-person tests in many circumstances.

Department leaders on Tuesday acknowledged that requests for COVID-19 tests have risen significantly in recent weeks as the Omicron variant of the virus has swept across the globe.

In a statement, VA officials said that they are “managing the demand for testing and will continue to provide high-quality testing services for veterans.”

That won’t include any changes to accommodate at-home tests, however. For now, the department is not part of the White House effort to send 500 million at-home tests to Americans in coming weeks, free of charge.

Most of those tests aren’t expected to arrive until sometime in February. Meanwhile, many veterans and their family members have been looking for tests right away, to check on their health and meet new mandates for entry into public facilities and events.

In recent weeks, the number of active cases among department patients has skyrocketed, with hospitals adding more than 1,100 inpatients with severe coronavirus complications in the last two weeks alone.

VA health officials have conducted more than 6.2 million coronavirus tests at medical centers since the start of the pandemic in America in March 2020.

Diagnostic testing is available for veterans who are enrolled in VA health care and meet criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes individuals who are showing symptoms of infection or have been in close contact with others who have tested positive.

Veterans should call ahead for appointments for testing, to limit wait time when they arrive at the facility. But veterans in need of emergency care can visit any medical center for aid.

More information is available at the VA website.

- Leo Shane III