White House to Implement Ernst, Hirono Efforts to Expand Veterans Access to Telehealth

The announcement mirrors the senators’ bipartisan legislation to provide telemedicine across state lines

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) applauded the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) announcement to expand telehealth services for veterans and provide telemedicine across state lines. This announcement follows the senators’ efforts to improve telehealth services for veterans through their bipartisan legislation, the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act.

“The VA’s decision to allow veterans to access care from the comfort of, or closer to, their own homes is necessary to improving quality and timely care for the more than 200,000 veterans in Iowa, particularly those who are disabled or reside in rural communities,” said Senator Ernst, a combat veteran. “It is critical that we continue to create opportunities for veterans to receive the best care out there, including potentially life-saving mental health care. Improving the VA’s telehealth program is critical, and I am thrilled to see this common-sense measure will be put into action to benefit Iowans and veterans across the country.”

“Today’s announcement is a positive step forward to allow Hawaii veterans to access health care services regardless of where they live,” said Senator Hirono. “I will continue to push for the passage of the VETS Act to ensure that Secretary Shulkin’s announcement can be strengthened with full legislative authority to help veterans across the country.”

Beginning in 2015 and again in 2017, Senators Ernst and Hirono called for the expansion of telehealth services for veterans through their bipartisan Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act. 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.

Click here to read the full text of the VETS Act of 2017.