January 04, 2018

Bipartisan Legislation Cosponsored by Senators Shaheen and Hassan to Improve Health Care Access for Veterans with Disabilities and Those in Rural Areas Passes U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) that would improve health care access – including mental health treatment – for veterans who experience disabilities or those who live in rural areas passed the Senate on Wednesday. The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (VETS Act) expands telehealth services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), allowing veterans to use telehealth services from out-of-state providers and receive a wider range of VA health care services at home.

“Quality and accessible healthcare services are out of reach for too many of our nation’s veterans, including many in New Hampshire. That’s unacceptable,” said Senator Shaheen. “With the assistance of medical and technological advances, this bipartisan bill will help ensure the VA delivers the best care possible to Granite State veterans in rural communities, providing our brave men and women with the resources and assistance they need and deserve.”

“Veterans in rural parts of New Hampshire and veterans who experience disabilities often face unacceptable obstacles in receiving the VA health care services that they need and have earned,” Senator Hassan said. “The VETS Act brings long overdue innovation to the way veterans can receive care by expanding telehealth services, helping us fulfill the promises we’ve made to those who have served." 

Historically the VA has only performed at-home telehealth services when the patient and provider are located in the same state. Such requirements prevent veterans from seeking treatment from a provider in another state that may be closer to their home. In some cases, veterans also must travel great lengths to a federal facility instead of receiving telehealth services. The VA has recently begun the process of removing some of the regulations that currently stand in the way of providing at-home telehealth services.

The VETS Act fully addresses these barriers by allowing qualified VA health professionals to operate across state lines and conduct telehealth services, including vital mental health care treatment, for veterans from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. The bill also ensures that the VA and Congress provide oversight of the VA’s telehealth program by requiring the VA to measure program effectiveness.

The VETS Act was introduced by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and is endorsed by the American Legion, American Telemedicine Association, Coalition for Health IT Now, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.