New Bill Helps Veterans Gain Access to Telehealth
July 29, 2010 – Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced new legislation into the House on Wednesday. Should the Veterans Telehealth Improvement Act (VTIA) pass, it will expand veterans’ ability to use long-distance health care services, such as telehealth and telemedicine. Both of these services provide remote treatment to veterans as well as:
- Reducing stigma attached with seeking mental health help;
- Reducing distance veterans travel for mental health treatment; and
- Eliminating veteran required co-payments.
Welch considers this legislation a significant first step in bridging gaps between veterans and their needed health care. Distance should not be one of the problems with which veterans must contend in order to receive health care. Telehealth and Telemedicine systems may help solve some aspects of this problem.
Local clinics broadcast health care treatment over either the phone or broadband to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics. Veterans, then, report to their local VA clinic to receive the treatment on the other end. The first Telehealth clinic launched last year and there are now 5 locations in Vermont and New Hampshire.
As more veterans are cycling back to the United States from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, they will place more demands on the VA health care system. Many of these veterans live in very rural areas and have no immediate access to health care. Should the VTIA pass, Vermont will be able to offer veterans even more access to health care via these remote systems.