American heroes are facing a grim reality amid the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 is attacking veterans at an alarming rate.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has reported a staggering number of veterans are dying in VA hospitals and facilities.
In VA facilities around the country, there are more than 11,000 veterans with coronavirus. More than 900 of them have died. Most of the deaths have been in New York and New Jersey.
A few weeks ago, COVID-19 knocked down Navy veteran Justice Banks. He served during the Vietnam War.
“I must have passed out, I fell on my bathroom floor and I couldn’t get up, like the commercial," he said.
Banks was turned away from the VA because the hospital was not accepting any more emergency or COVID-19 patients.
“I had to figure it out. Veterans are going to die if the VA doesn’t do more," he said.
Advocates worry the numbers only represent a fraction of the cases and deaths of what’s happening to veterans during the pandemic.
Wendy McClinton, president of Black Veterans for Social Justice, and her team said it’s already hard as it is for veterans to get services. The coronavirus outbreak made it worse.
“Is it lack of PPE? Neglect? what is it?” McClinton said.
In a statement, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie responded to the pandemic.
“VA has a world-class medical team doing incredible work on the front lines of this fight," he said. "We will continue to share best practices and lessons learned from our government.”
In the meantime, Banks is grateful to be alive.
This story was originally published by Nicole Johnson at WPIX.