MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — COVID-19 has kept many veterans at the VA Medical Center from their family and friends, but now there’s a new way for them to connect. Virtual visits are helping those who fought for and protected our freedoms.

It’s become a barrier between our warriors and the family and friends who love them.

“We have very much limited access, not only to patients with the COVID but with other patients all over this hospital,” Patrick Kelly said.

These virtual visitations will get a boost from a donation from the American Legion.

“Today, the American Legion, through its Operation Comfort Program, is providing 50 brand new Apple iPads to assist the VA in its mission connecting hospitalized veterans virtually with their loved ones during the pandemic,” Jeremy Wolfstiller said.

More than $18,000 was spent by the American Legion to connect veterans with their families during this pandemic.

“If I can imagine being in a hospital and you are unable to have a visitor during these difficult times, this would be the way to do it over video,” Angela Nichols said.

It’s fast and easy to set up so the veteran never has to leave their room.

“We can roll one of these in and help them sit it up and just give that video call rolling. They have access to all different commercially available applications so whatever is easiest for their family and their friends they can connect to them through the app,” Ben Barrett said.

These virtual visitations are part of a broader trend towards tele-health and using technology in VA treatment.

The iPads can also be used by COVID-19 patients to talk to their nurse or doctor to prevent possible exposure to the virus.

The American Legion says it always stands ready to assist the VA. The two have been partnered for more than 100 years.

Reg Chapman