Reps. Lee, Banks Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Veterans’ Telehealth Services During COVID-19

July 30, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Reps. Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.-03) introduced bipartisan legislation, the VA Telehealth Expansion Act, which would improve and expand telehealth services for veterans at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  

This bill seeks to close some of the gaps in access to VA telehealth care, by allowing VA to provide grants to outside partners creating and upgrading technology access points for veterans. Quality telehealth services are vital for veterans to access quality health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for veterans in rural or medically underserved communities.  

“We cannot let this pandemic compromise health care services for our veterans and servicemembers,” said Rep. Lee. “Because of COVID-19, telehealth video visits at VA have increased by over 1,000 percent between March and June of this year. Even though VA has expanded their telehealth capacity, many veterans still have limited access to telehealth services. There’s clearly no time for excuses. It’s our responsibility to adapt to the changes thrown our way. Our bipartisan bill will make sure that local VA facilities have the capacity and the technology to provide telehealth services, and that veterans in all communities have access to the quality health services they’ve earned.”

"The past few months have shown how an unexpected crisis can complicate the VA's mission,” said Rep. Banks. “Our bill is common-sense, bipartisan, and improves the VA's ability to provide veterans with high-quality care no matter the circumstance."

BACKGROUNDClick here to view a fact sheet of the VA Telehealth Expansion Act

Under the CARES Act, Congress appropriated over $2 billion to support VA information technology for the pandemic response. Due to this supplemental funding, VA was able to ship out more than 16,000 laptops and 7,500 iPhones to veterans in need. However, many veterans in rural and underserved communities, with limited access to broadband, are still having difficulty accessing reliable telehealth services through VA.  

The gran tprogram enacted under the VA Telehealth Expansion Act would be designed to give preference to VA entities that represent veterans in rural or highly rural areas or operate in a medically underserved community.