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Senate bill aims to expand telehealth services for veterans

A bill introduced in the Senate aims to improve health care for disabled or rural veterans by expanding telehealth services.

Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support or VETS Act last week.

The bipartisan legislation would allow Department of Veterans Affairs Physicians to practice across state lines. The physicians would also be able to provide telehealth services, including mental health care, to patients in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

The current law allows the Veterans Administration to waive state licensure requirements only if both the patient and physician are physically at a VA facility. And home telehealth requires both physician and patient to be in the same state. These barriers can deter veterans from seeking medical help.

An announcement of the bill was posted to Sen. Ernst’s website with the following comments included.

“The bipartisan Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act moves us one step closer to achieving more affordable, patient-centered health care that our veterans deserve by embracing telehealth services to offer physician care and health treatment beyond the walls of a VA facility,” said Senator Ernst. “Telehealth care is an innovative and important means to meet the wide-ranging needs of veterans in Iowa and nationwide, including the invisible struggles of mental health care.”

“Our nation has a moral obligation to provide the best care for all veterans,” said Senator Hirono. “This legislation would eliminate the added burden of traveling long distances, or even to different states, in order to see a doctor. The VETS Act will build 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.”

Click here to read the announcement. 

Click here to view the bill.