Connecting Vets: As VA leans on telehealth during pandemic, rural and minority vets lack internet, tech access

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is increasingly depending on telehealth, including online and phone appointments, during the coronavirus pandemic, with plans to expand. But many veterans, especially vets of color and those who are homeless, lower-income or live in rural or remote areas, struggle with access to Internet service and technology to get that virtual care.”

“VA officials touted the department as a leader in electronic healthcare options, including the 9 million more telehealth appointments VA has completed so far this year compared to last year, to lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday. But representatives of minority veterans, including Native Americans and Native Alaskans, said that telehealth option is not always available to all vets.”

“Veterans can now access care ‘anywhere in the country’ through telehealth, Veterans Health Administration consultant to the deputy undersecretary for health Jennifer MacDonald said. But veteran advocates said it’s not that simple.”

“VA’s telehealth options operations have caused ‘a barrage of issues … that deeply and disproportionately impact the minority veteran community’s ability to take advantage of benefits intended to ease and increase medical access, despite a pandemic,’ said Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America. ‘It assumes a veteran has stable broadband connection, a working computer or phone, a private space in which to sit for the appointment and an environment lacking disruption…’”

“Congress earmarked about $2.2 billion of the nearly $20 billion in pandemic emergency funds for VA specifically for telehealth.”

“While some veterans have struggled with access to internet and technology long before the pandemic, it has complicated matters further. Advocates have told lawmakers previously that public internet access spots, such as libraries or cafes, have been shut down for months because of the pandemic…” Read the full article here.

Source: As VA leans on telehealth during pandemic, rural and minority vets lack internet, tech access – By Abbie Bennett, June 23, 2020. Connecting Vets.

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