PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Veterans, community members, and politicians are continuing to rally for policy changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Luzerne County.

The controversy surrounds pandemic-imposed visitation restrictions in place for some resident veterans at the Wilkes-Barre VA.

A state elected official has now joined the effort and is calling on the Biden Administration to take action.

“These are heroes who fought and sacrificed for the United States and now they’re really being treated more like prisoners of war,” said Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity.

Garrity is no stranger to fighting for freedom.

She served for three decades in the United States Army Reserve and completed three deployments to Iraq.

“It’s heartbreaking to me to see that my brothers and sisters who fought to make sure that we had our freedoms here have basically been stripped of their freedom,” said Garrity.

Garrity is speaking out against what she calls “the harsh restrictions in place” at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center in Plains Township.

Wednesday, she wrote to President Joe Biden and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, sharing her concerns.

“President Biden grew up just 18 miles away from this Wilkes-Barre VA so I’m hoping that he really takes an interest in this because they can change these policies, they can update them, and they can do it immediately,” said Garrity.

Back in August, dozens of people gathered outside the Wilkes-Barre VA to protest its pandemic-imposed visitation restrictions.

In a statement issued to Eyewitness News, Bill Klaips, Executive Assistant to the Director of the Wilkes-Barre VA, says “Wilkes-barre follows veterans health administration guidance regarding the implementation of covid precautions within the medical center and community living.”

Treasurer Garrity says ensuring the best for our veterans and their families is a top priority.

“They deserve to live out their golden years with dignity and respect,” said Garrity.

Garrity says she has not yet heard back from President Biden or Secretary McDonough.

Current Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center Visitation Status:

Community Living Center:

Visitation for Community Living Center Residents is allowed in designated visitation rooms and the Lobby of the CLC by individuals over 2 years of age.

Visitations are pre-scheduled, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM / 7 days a week, to assure appropriate distancing can be maintained. 

There are no time limits on the length of visits

Masking remains a requirement for Residents, Staff and Visitors within the Community Living Center.

Based on acuity level, ambulatory Residents and visitors are free to walk the grounds and visit the Canteen.   

Rapid COVID testing is available for visitors

Medical Center:

Visitation within the Acute Care units at the Medical Center is currently limited to one individual at a time over 12 years of age.

Visitation for COVID positive patients is limited to compassionate care only