April 26, 2017

Hirono, Ernst Continue Push for VETS Act

Bipartisan legislation increases veterans’ access to telehealth services

Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Joni Ernst (R-IA) reintroduced the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (VETS Act). This bipartisan legislation seeks to improve health care access – including mental health treatment – for disabled or rural veterans by expanding telehealth services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Hawaii veterans shouldn’t have to fly to Oahu, or even different states, to seek the medical care they have earned,” said Senator Hirono. “The VETS Act builds on a VA telemedicine program that is proven to work, and removes barriers to accessing care particularly for veterans in rural areas like Hawaii’s Neighbor Islands.”

“Iowa is home to more than 200,000 veterans, many of whom reside in more rural areas, distant from Iowa’s VA facilities,” said Senator Ernst. “Telehealth offers another way in which we can provide veterans the care they need, including critical, and potentially lifesaving mental health care. The VETS Act will ensure that veterans can receive the timely and quality care they deserve from the comfort of their own homes.”

Currently, VA may only perform at-home telehealth services when the patient and provider are located in the same state. Such requirements create geographical barriers to critical health services for veterans seeking treatment from VA health experts in another state. In some cases, veterans also must travel great lengths to a federal facility instead of receiving telehealth services by camera or phone.

The VETS Act 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 VETS Act is endorsed by the American Legion, American Telemedicine Association, Coalition for Health IT Now, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives was introduced today by Representatives Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.).

VETS Act:

  • Allows VA health professionals to practice telemedicine across state lines if they are qualified and practice within the scope of their authorized federal duties.
  • Ensures the VA and Congress provide oversight of the VA’s telehealth program by requiring the VA to measure program effectiveness.

Click here to read the full text of the VETS Act.