AELVAMC Provides Exemplary Care and Service During COVID19 Pandemic

May 13, 2021

Dear Editor:

It’s been more than 15 months since our nation began its fight against COVID-19. We’ve prevented infections, cared for the sick, saved lives and mourned those we’ve lost. We’ve provided so much more than medicine during this time as loved ones supported from a distance. The burdens and responsibilities of the pandemic have strained organizations, families, and each of us in very personal ways. Now, as more than 2.3 million Veterans across the nation have been fully vaccinated, 12,682 locally, trust and confidence in VA health care is at an all-time high.

Our health care teams at the Aleda E. Lutz VAMC here in Saginaw and our Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) in our 35-county catchment area have earned that trust, working on the frontlines to provide care to those most in need. We began implementing safety measures over a year ago to protect Veterans and our staff from getting sick. As part of prioritizing safety, for each appointment we had to weigh the options and risks with our patients. When clinical urgency rose above the risk of COVID-19, we provided in person care. When it did not and the risk of COVID-19 infection took priority, we offered alternatives. This was the right decision. In many cases, Veterans told us they preferred postponing routine care because they did not want to risk being exposed to the virus and we worked with them to identify next steps.

We successfully moved many appointments to video and telephone when that was appropriate and helped meet the needs of the patient. This has even offered unexpected benefits of convenience for Veterans or additional engagement options for family and caregivers. Unlike with in person care, virtual options give a Veteran’s support network the ability to join visits and engage with VA providers much more easily. We anticipate continuing to offer virtual visits even as we return to more in-person care. The programs offered virtually, like our MOVE! Program offers, “have been a lifeline to me and other Veterans as well as a source of community in dealing with similar emotional and physical issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, stated Veteran patient Trent S. Kutsch, USCG, Retired. “It has been a great pleasure to know that there are people who care about the Veterans, and that to them this is more than ‘just a job,’ it is a dedication and willingness to provide help and care to all Veterans’ needs and expectations.”

As we move forward, we are welcoming Veterans back in record numbers. We are encouraging Veterans to call first and talk to their health care team about coming in for routine and preventative care. These appointments, from cancer screenings to eye exams are essential to staying healthy and ultimately save lives.

Here at Aleda E. Lutz VAMC and CBOCs, we have reached out to patients to be sure they are getting the care they need and working with them to reschedule appointments. As our community spread of COVID-19 has decreased over the past few months, many have already resumed their care, while others have begun scheduling appointments for the weeks ahead, either within the VA or when eligible, in the community.

In working to coordinate care, we have found that many community providers outside of VA are also needing to reschedule previously cancelled appointments or are managing abbreviated schedules, creating longer wait times than usual and often longer than within VA. We have provided more than 2.3 million Veterans care in the community since the MISSION Act was implemented almost two years ago, and we are proud that so many Veterans continue to choose VA, allowing us to coordinate timely, quality and patient-focused care inside or outside our walls.

I want this community to know that we are dedicated to caring for Veterans, not just in this time of national emergency, but continuing now and into the future. While we are part of the national healthcare system, first and foremost, we are members of this vibrant community. Aleda E. Lutz VAMC’s 1,296 employees are here day and night for those who have served our nation. We have extended morning clinic hours by beginning at 7:00 a.m. in five of our Primary Care Clinics. In addition, our Cardiology Clinics will be open every other Saturday for those who need a weekend appointment.

Recent legislation has enabled us to open up vaccination clinics to any Veteran along with their spouse or caregiver, and we are pleased to be meeting new members of this community for the first time, or welcoming back those who we haven’t seen in a while. We would encourage every Veteran to consider coming in and receiving their COVID-19 vaccine and enrolling in care with us. If you or a Veteran in your life haven’t come in for care in a while, please check in with your provider team and consider scheduling an appointment. If you know a Veteran who isn’t enrolled in VA health care and is interested in their eligibility, please direct them to

I hope Veterans and all members of the community will take the time to work with their medical provider team to get their appointments rescheduled, even if they haven’t been vaccinated yet. Our doors are open, and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Best regards,


Chris Cauley, FACHE
Acting Medical Center Director