|A new bill currently making its way through Congress would remove even more barriers to veterans’ access to telemedicine, making it easier for them to seek treatment for mental illness.
According to MHealthNews.com, the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2015, introduced on May 22, would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to push needed telehealth services — especially mental health and behavioral services — to veterans who need them, no matter where they are.
This would change current telemedicine laws, which require both the veteran and his or her physician to be at a federally-owned VA facility. Under the new bill, veterans would be able to receive telemedicine services in their homes or other facility of their choice — relieving them of the effort it takes to drive to the closest VA facility.
Among the chronically ill population, some 30 to 35% of people have one or more diagnosable mental illnesses. For veterans, who have often lived through traumatic experiences, mental illness is much more common.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-PA, and Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-NY, co-sponsored this bill just three years after Congress passed a law that allows veterans to get telemedicine services across state lines.
“When our service men and women are called to duty, they do so selflessly with only the country in mind,” Thompson said in a press release. “When they return home, it is our shared duty to be there for these heroes, by making lifesaving resources readily accessible. (This bill) will eliminate multiple layers of bureaucracy, allowing our veterans to have greater access to mental and behavioral health services, especially in rural areas.”
Earlier in May, the VA asked Congress for more than $15 billion in grants to help reduce wait times for medical care at its hospitals. Ultimately, Congress granted them the money, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
With renewed efforts to get veterans the medical and mental health treatment they need, when they need it, there may still be hope for Congress and the VA’s ability to serve those who have served this country.