Tester announces new grant to improve telehealth services for rural veterans

Assistance comes in the wake of Senator’s successful effort to increase veterans’ access to care

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today announced that new assistance to improve telehealth services for Montana’s rural veterans is headed to the Big Sky State.

Montana will receive $300,000 to upgrade veterans’ telehealth facilities and equipment. Veterans in rural areas or with limited mobility use telehealth services to receive care in their homes or at local clinics. After hearing about the need for VA health services in Hamilton and Plentywood, Tester was instrumental in convincing the VA to establish telehealth clinics in the two communities.

Tester, who recently got the Department of Veterans Affairs to eliminate copayments for using telehealth and telemedicine services, said the new assistance would encourage even more veterans to take advantage of telehealth services, increasing their access to care.

“Montana veterans often live hundreds of miles from the nearest VA hospital or clinic,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This assistance will improve Montana’s telehealth services and will make a big difference for rural veterans who have few other options for care.”

Data shows that using telehealth technology helps patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension live better, more independent lives. In addition to improving veterans’ health care, telehealth services also save rural veterans the hardship of traveling long distances and save the VA money by reducing travel reimbursement costs.

The assistance comes from the VA and the Department of Health and Human Services. The two departments are now following Tester’s “roadmap” and collaborating more effectively in order to increase veterans’ access to mental health care across Montana and rural America.

“This is an outstanding example of a partnership that expands access to care and improves quality of life for rural veterans,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said.

Tester’s roadmap requires the departments to increase their efforts to contract with local health providers. It also requires the departments to plan a rural mental health recruitment drive to boost the number of mental health providers in rural areas – something Tester has long championed to help Montana veterans.

Montana is home to more than 103,000 veterans, the second largest veterans’ population per capita in the nation.