Tester Presses VA to Provide Coverage for Telehealth Services for Family Members During COVID-19 Pandemic

Following push to assist dependents and survivors, Ranking Member joins effort to increase telehealth services for CHAMPVA beneficiaries

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our nation’s veterans, Ranking Member Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is joining his colleagues in pressing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide coverage of comprehensive telehealth services—including voice communication—for beneficiaries of the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA).

Currently, federal regulations do not allow CHAMPVA to cover health care services that are delivered through audio-only conferencing, telephone calls, and text messaging. These restrictions hamper program beneficiaries’ ability to access care and services remotely during the national health crisis.

“Our constituents, including those who reside in rural areas where internet access may be limited, need access to telehealth services that involve voice communication, especially during a public health emergency,” Tester and his colleagues wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We appreciate the steps VA has taken in recent years to make telehealth more accessible to veterans and their families, but in order for this access to be meaningful, it must reach constituents through the platforms that work best for them and their providers. As such, we urge VA to take the necessary steps to immediately ensure CHAMPVA beneficiaries are able to access health services through voice communication platforms.”

The Senators’ request comes on the heels of Tester’s recent letter to Veterans Health Administration Executive in Charge, Dr. Richard Stone, where he urged VA to provide dependents and survivors of veterans with the information they need to remain eligible for CHAMPVA.

“Spouses of 100 percent service-connected, permanently disabled veterans and certain survivors are relying on this Program to provide needed health care services,” Tester wrote. “Therefore, I ask for your help in better understanding VA’s communication with beneficiaries, especially during the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, so that I can gain a better understanding of VA’s efforts to ensure certain spouses and survivors are able to maintain their eligibility for health care.”

Read the Senator’s letter to VA Secretary Wilkie HERE.

Read the Senator’s letter to Dr. Stone HERE.

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