(U.S. Senate) – On the two-year anniversary of the signing of their Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (Hannon Act), Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expedite its efforts to establish a telehealth grant and access point program to better care for rural veterans as directed under the landmark law.
The Senators’ bipartisan Hannon Act, signed into law October 17th, 2020, required VA to increase the number of locations where VA telehealth care is available at non-VA facilities through a grant funding program.
“While not a replacement for in-person care in every situation, telehealth is essential for reaching veterans in rural and remote areas and who live far distances from the nearest VA facility,” the Senators wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Telehealth has become an even more important care option during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing VA to safely provide routine care to veterans without needing to travel…Given the unprecedented increase in telehealth demand and the historic level of investment in VA telehealth funding, we are concerned VA has yet to publish a proposed rule to enact the telehealth grants program from the Hannon Act.”
Tester and Moran further highlighted how the new grant program would allow non-VA facilities, including Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), nonprofits or businesses, to become a telehealth access point for local veterans living in rural or remote areas to receive care closer to home. VSOs in particular have been consistent supporters of increasing telehealth access for veterans in rural and remote areas, and would be able to utilize the program to help bolster veterans’ access to care.
They continued, “Please provide an update on the status of the telehealth grant program development, steps taken to expedite implementation, and a timeline for VA to publish a proposed rule, final rule, and award grants in accordance with Section 701 of the Hannon Act. VA must take action to ensure veterans in rural and remote areas have timely and convenient access to care and telehealth services.”
Read the Senator’s full letter HERE.