WASHINGTON - In case you missed it, Senators Hassan and Shaheen urged the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) yesterday to strengthen New Hampshire veterans’ access to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senators worked to pass the CARES Act into law, which included $2.15 billion to enhance the VA’s ability to provide telehealth services. In their letter to the VA, the Senators raised the challenge of access to broadband in rural areas, as well as the growing need for virtual mental health appointments for veterans amid the pandemic.
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By John DiStaso
New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators are asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to focus on providing quality telehealth services to the nation’s veterans during the coronavirus pandemic.
“As you know, high-quality health care for the brave men and women who have served our nation is a top priority and veterans need innovative solutions to address the unique challenges posed by COVID-19,” Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a letter Thursday to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We strongly urge you to prioritize continuous improvement to your telehealth offerings to meet the needs of veterans in New Hampshire and throughout the United States.”
The senators wrote that the most vulnerable veterans, those who are older or who have medical conditions, are likely to be unfamiliar with telehealth services.
“As a result, these veterans face additional obstacles in navigating and accessing the care available to them,” they wrote. “The VA must continue to provide up-to-date guidance and maximize the availability of mobile devices and broadband access to help all veterans, including rural veterans and those unfamiliar with telehealth, transition to telehealth appointments without interrupting their care.”
The senators asked the secretary to continue to improve telehealth access for mental health services as well.
The CARES Act provided $2.15 billion in funding to allow the VA to “bolster its existing information technology networks to enhance its capacity for telehealth visits for veterans,” the senators wrote. "This funding aims to allow more veterans to receive care from the comfort and safety of their own home."
The senators posed nine questions to the VA secretary covering issues including telehealth, broadband services, community outpatient centers, cybersecurity to stop scams targeting veterans and how the VA is prioritizing elderly, “immunocompromised” and other vulnerable veterans in delivering the telehealth services.
Several of the questions cite the VA medical centers in Manchester and White River Junction, Vermont.