Tester, Colleagues Urge VA to Expand Telemental Health Services to Veterans During COVID-19 Outbreak

Ranking Member calls on Secretary Wilkie to bolster mental health efforts for veterans at increased risk of suicide

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester and his colleagues are urging Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to use the authority granted in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to expand critical telemental health services to veterans during the COVID-19 crisis. Tester secured a provision in the coronavirus stimulus package that allows VA to partner with telecommunications companies to subsidize fixed and mobile internet services for veterans who need telemental health care.

“Veterans with underlying mental health conditions, including clinical-level anxiety and depression, those who live alone or who already have subjective feelings of loneliness, those concerned about employment and their financial situations, and those with a history of self-medication using alcohol and drugs, are all at an increased risk of suicide during this time,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “Additionally, veterans who live in rural areas, medically underserved and unserved parts of the U.S. may also be at increased risk, and are also in need of these enhanced mental health services. Unfortunately, many veterans who are at increased risk of suicide lack reliable and cost-efficient access to fixed broadband and mobile connectivity services.”

Tester has led the charge to expand access to telehealth resources during the coronavirus outbreak. He successfully secured $2.15 billion to bolster telehealth capabilities through increased telework and call center capabilities in the CARES Act.

Read the full letter HERE.