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Bipartisan VETS Act Passes Senate

Ernst-Hirono measure would improve veterans’ access to health care by expanding VA telehealth services

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the bipartisan Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act, introduced by Senators Ernst and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), unanimously passed the Senate. This legislation seeks to improve veterans’ access to health care services by expanding telehealth services – including mental health treatment - provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“All of our veterans must have access to quality and timely care, including life-saving mental health treatment, regardless of where they live,” said Senator Ernst. “The VETS Act would allow Iowa’s rural or disabled veterans to receive care from their own home by increasing telehealth and telemedicine services provided by the VA. With more than 200,000 veterans across Iowa, I am thrilled to see our bipartisan effort advance through the U.S. Senate so we can continue working to ensure better care for those who have sacrificed so much.”

“The VETS Act will help Hawaii veterans access high quality VA care and health services when they need it, where they need it,” said Senator Hirono. “I urge the swift enactment of the bill and will continue to fight to ensure Hawaii veterans can access the care they need from a strong, well-resourced VA system.”

About the VETS Act:

  • Senators Ernst and Hirono first introduced the VETS Act in 2015, and reintroduced it in the 115th Congress in April of 2017.
  • In August of 2017, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) announced it will expand telehealth services for veterans and provide telemedicine across state lines, mirroring efforts in the VETS Act.
  • The VETS Act was included in the Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017 and was approved by the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on November 29, 2017.
  • The VETS Act 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) by allowing VA health officials to practice telemedicine across state lines if they are qualified and practice within the scope of their authorized federal duties.
  • Additionally, the legislation ensures the VA and Congress provide oversight of the VA’s telehealth program by requiring the VA to measure program effectiveness.