Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19

For more information, visit the New York State Division of Veterans' Services.

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I had a hearing scheduled regarding my claim being appealed and just heard the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) is going to suspend all hearings. Can you tell me what's going to happen?

Effective Monday, 3/23/20, the Board of Veterans' Appeals is suspending all video and Central Office hearings through at least May 1st, 2020. VA is asking veterans to work with their representatives on rescheduling hearings.

I'm a veteran, what should I do if I start exhibiting symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath?

Any veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath should immediately contact their local VA facility. The Veterans Health Administration urges veterans to call before visiting. You can find contact information for your closest VA facility. Alternatively, veterans can sign in to My HealtheVet to send a secure message to VA or use telehealth options to explain their condition and receive a prompt diagnosis.

What are the current policies regarding residents of VA Community Living Centers?

On 3/10/20, VA adopted the following restrictions for the health and safety of patients at Community Living Centers:

  • All Community Living Centers will not permit outside visitors to see residents. The lone exception will be in situations where a veteran is in the last stages of their life. In those cases, visitors will be restricted to solely the room of that particular veteran patient.
  • All Community Living Centers will suspend new admissions. Medically necessary transfers from VAMCs & CBOCs to Community Living Centers will continue to occur once the Community Living Center screens the patient and ensure that the patient does not have COVID-19.
  • Community Living Center staff will be screened daily for COVID-19

My school has temporarily closed and suspended all operations due to COVID-19. What happens to my G.I. Bill benefits?

If your school temporarily closes due to an emergency situation, e.g. COVID-19-related closures, VA is authorized by federal law to continue education benefits payments — including your Basic Allowance for Housing — at the full amount for up to 4 weeks during a 12-month period. (Note: See "VA Updates on COVID-19" for more information regarding disruptions to student veteran benefits due to COVID-19).

If I had scheduled an interment service for a veteran or a veteran's eligible dependent at a National Cemetery, is that service now canceled?

On March 20th, 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that all large funeral services and military burial honors will cease at veteran cemeteries nationwide starting March 23rd, 2020. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “committal services and the rendering of military funeral honors will discontinue until further notice”. Read more about this announcement.

What should I do if I want to file a new VA claim?

Please contact one of our veterans' Benefits Advisors via email. If you don't have our email, please call our office in your local area. The voicemail message will contain the Veterans Benefits Advisor's email address. Or you can call the NYSDVS call center at 888-838-7697.

What are the current policies regarding veterans at VA's major spinal cord injury and disorder centers (SCI/Ds)?

SCI/Ds, in New York they're in the Bronx and Syracuse, serve the needs of a unique patient population of veterans who are also vulnerable to infection. Effective March 10 and until further notice, VA is taking the following actions:

  • All VA SCI/Ds will adopt a "No Visitor" stance, meaning no outside visitors will be permitted to see inpatients. The only exceptions will be in compassionate cases, when veterans are in their last stages of life. Visitors will be limited to a specific veteran's room only.
  • All VA SCI/Ds will limit inpatient admissions to addressing acute clinical needs. This means all VA SCI/Ds will avoid inpatient admissions for routine matters, including annual exams and respite, which will now be done on an outpatient basis.

I'm not working because of COVID-19, can I apply for Unemployment Insurance even though it hasn't been 7 days yet?

Yes. Our partners at the New York State Department of Labor are working non-stop to meet this need. NYS has waived the 7-day waiting period to apply. Please apply online, if possible. The day you should file is based on the first letter of your last name:

  • A-F: Monday
  • G-N: Tuesday
  • O-Z: Wednesday

If you missed your filing day, please claim on Thursday or Friday. Filing later in the week will NOT delay your payments, all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed. View a step-by-step to file a claim online.

I am unable to attend classes due to COVID-19. What happens if I am receiving financial benefits — like the Veterans Tuition Award or the MERIT Scholarship — from the NYS Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC)?

For student veterans, and any other students, HESC has a plan in place so students will be held harmless if a student is eligible for a NYS financial aid award and is impacted by COVID-19. The student will still receive their award from HESC as long as they are charged tuition. HESC held a webinar with colleges statewide to ensure their awareness of this policy. View the full webinar.

I'm worried about not making rent and possible eviction during the #CORVID19 pandemic. Are eviction proceedings still occurring in New York State?

As of right now, no. As reported by Politico New York, the New York State Court Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks halted eviction proceedings and pending evictions indefinitely in New York State effective March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

I am a New Yorker who is sick and/or in isolation and am unable to work due to COVID-19, I don't have paid sick leave. What options exist for me?

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to provide emergency paid sick leave to New Yorkers who are sick or subject to quarantine/isolation and can't work due to the coronavirus with the relief. It is effective immediately.

I'm a small business owner and I need to protect my business and employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Are there any resources available?

Yes. The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing guidance and loan resources such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program to small business owners. Visit the SBA website for more details and applications.

The CDC is providing some useful health and safety information and plans for business and employers. That information can be found on the CDC website.

The Veterans Benefits Administration just announced that their Regional Offices are closing to the public starting March 19. Does that mean that my claim will not get processed?

No. Even though Regional Offices are closing to the public starting 3/19/20, the Veterans Benefits Administration remains at work and will continue to process claims for veterans, servicemembers, and their families. You are still welcome to contact the VBA via phone: 800-827-1000.

Additionally, veterans with claims specific or other questions may request information via the Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS).

My children receive breakfast and/or lunch at their school in New York State. Now, their school is closed due to COVID-19. Are any resources available for my children to get these meals that they typically eat at school?

Yes. The New York State Department of Education has already approved close to 780 plans for food distribution by schools and is continuing to work steadily with school districts on this situation. The majority of these plans provide for grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for individuals up to their 19th birthday (with the exception of infants). Visit your school district's website for the most up-to-date information. Find the website of your school district.

I am a veteran affected by COVID-19 and I am having trouble making my debt payments to the VA Debt Management Center (DMC). Who can I speak to about assistance?

If you are affected by the COVID-19, have a VBA benefit debt, and need temporary financial relief - please contact DMC at 1-800-827-0648 to request assistance.

I use methadone, suboxone, or another maintenance medication. With all of the closures of facilities due to COVID19, will I still be able to obtain the medication that I need?

Yes. Opioid Treatment Programs in New York are remaining open. To find an Opioid Treatment Program in your area with availability, please use the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Support's Treatment Availability Dashboard.

The federal government enacted H.R. 6201, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” How does this law impact my ability to take paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19?

Private employers with fewer than 500 employees must immediately make 80 hours of paid sick leave available for full-time employees for any of the following reasons:
  • The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order due to COVID-19
  • A healthcare provider advised the employee to self-quarantine because of COVID-19
  • The employee is experiencing symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
  • The employee is caring for a person who is subject to a quarantine order or was medically advised to self-quarantine
  • The employee is caring for their child because the school, childcare provider, or place of care has been closed/is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions

Paid sick leave is to be paid at the employee’s regular rate, capped at:  

  • $511 per day, $5,110 in the aggregate IF the employee is subject to an isolation order, advised to self-quarantine by a medical professional, or experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis
  • $200 per day, $2,000 in the aggregate IF the employee is caring for a person subject to a quarantine order or medically advised to self-quarantine, or caring for their child because of a COVID-19 school or childcare facility closure

The employer must pay for these benefits and will receive a tax credit for doing so.

I am having a difficult time paying my utilities bills due to financial challenges caused by COVID-19. What can I do to avoid losing power, heat, and/or water?

Utilities in NY have suspended service disconnections for their customers. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Public Service states utilities leaders to ensure that New Yorkers will not lose access to electric, gas, and water services.

Instead, utility companies are offering deferred payment plans for customers facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 emergency.

The CDC recommends that I have a supply of necessary medications on hand. I have TRICARE and typically get my prescriptions filled at my pharmacy. Is there a way to get a long-term supply of these medications delivered to my home during NY's PAUSE period?

Yes. TRICARE gives beneficiaries the ability to get a 90-day supply of their prescriptions sent to their residence via home delivery. Shipping of your prescription medications is free of charge as part of your standard TRICARE prescription plan.

Sign up for TRICARE's home delivery program or call 1-877-363-1303.

I am a licensed behavioral health provider. What can I do to assist my fellow New Yorkers during this time?

Licensed behavioral health providers in NYS who submit a self-attestation to the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports will receive rapid authorization to provide remote mental health care and/or addiction treatment services during the COVID-19 emergency.
To enroll and learn more.

I heard something about a change in status for the NY National Guard. What does that mean?

The President approved the request for Title 32 activation of New York’s National Guard. Simply put, under Title 32 status, a guardsman is activated by and remains under the control of the governor but is paid for by the federal government. This is NOT martial law.
For more information on some of the types of missions the United States National Guard assists with and to dispel some misinformation check out this article from Military Times.

I’m a veteran, what can I do if I need to be seen for a minor injury or illness, such as a cough, cold, earache, skin irritation, or other condition that is not life-threatening?

The Veterans Health Administration now offers urgent care at participating urgent care clinics closer to home. You now have the option to use VA's new urgent care benefit to be seen at an urgent care clinic within VA's contracted network for covered services.

You can utilize this benefit, which does not require preauthorization, if you are enrolled in VA health care and have received care from a VA or a VA-authorized community provider in the last 24 months.

To find a participating urgent care clinic or provider, use VA's online facility locator page. Select the "Urgent care" VA facility type and then "Community urgent care providers (in VA's network)" from the service type drop-down.

I am unable to make my VA Home Loan payments at this time, due to financial challenges caused by COVID-19. What can I do?

The VA has strongly urged leeway during these difficult times, including removing or reducing late fees, suspending credit bureau reporting of delinquent loans, liberally applying existing laws to prevent foreclosures.

See the VA’s full guidance regarding VA Home Loan relief during the COVID-19 emergency.

If you are experiencing financial challenges due to COVID-19, please contact your VA Home Loan lender immediately to discuss your specific financial situation and work out a plan.

I am an active duty service member or the family member of an active duty service member or a retiree and I am scheduled to have an elective surgery, will COVID-19 impact that?

Yes. As of March 31, the Department of Defense announced all military treatment facilities and dental treatment facilities will postpone elective surgeries and procedures for 60 days.

The policy applies to all beneficiaries: active-duty service members and their families, retirees, and Reserve and National Guard service members on active duty or a delayed effective date active-duty order. Read more.

Will VA extend timeliness deadlines for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to accommodate social distancing during the COVID19 pandemic?

VA’s current regulations provide flexibility for veterans to meet existing timelines by requesting to extend the filing periods of certain documents for good cause.

The Board may consider requests for good cause to submit notices of disagreement (38 CFR 20.203(c)) and to submit substantive appeals (38 CFR 19.53) in individual cases. The Board has noted veterans/appellants will need to request extensions in writing.

I’m feeling overwhelmed by everything happening right now. Is New York State offering any emotional support for people during this time?

Yes. The New York State Office of Mental Health has launched the first-of-its-kind Emotional Support Helpline in response to the mental health impact of COVID-19. The Helpline is available 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. The phone number is (844) 863-9314.