U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) are urging President Joe Biden to add the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the Defense Production Act Committee (DPAC).
The DPAC advises the President on the most effective use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to address the shortage of medical supplies and personal protective equipment during a crisis.
“As the nation’s largest integrated health care system and the largest federal agency charged with the delivery of health care, VA has an integral role to play in DPAC,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Biden. “VA’s participation would efficiently facilitate veteran care and allow the agency to leverage its unique resources in response to public health emergencies, including the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic…Including the VA Secretary on DPAC will enhance the quality and timeliness of care for our nation’s veterans, and given VA’s national footprint and proficiency in pharmaceutical distribution, it will create a more in-depth knowledge base for executing a strong response to the current and future national emergencies.”
Tester, chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Moran, the ranking member on the committee, made the same request of the Trump Administration, but no action was taken.
Currently, the DPAC consists of representatives from several federal agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Homeland Security, State, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Energy. Also included are the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Tester and Moran will lead a committee hearing next week to question VA witnesses on the Department’s progress in vaccinating veterans and staff. The hearing will also feature a discussion of potential improvements in the nation’s vaccine supply chain, so veterans and VA staff have what they need to get through the pandemic.