Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-O2) joined Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) to introduce the bipartisan Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2012, a bill aimed at increasing Veterans' access to care. Also joining as original co-sponsors are: Reps. Donna Christensen (D-VI), Walter Jones (R-NC), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Judy Chu (D-CA), Todd Platts (R-PA), and Mike Kelly (R-PA).
The bipartisan legislation would allow Veterans Affairs (VA) health professionals, including contractors, to practice telemedicine across state borders if they are qualified and practice within the scope of their authorized federal duties, a big improvement on the status quo; currently, overly cumbersome location requirements can make it difficult for Veterans - especially those struggling with mental health issues - to get the help they need and deserve.
"Veterans have often bravely defended our homeland with grave risk and consequence to their health," comments Bishop. "They deserve the best quality care we can provide. This bill, if enacted, will ensure veterans get the treatment they need. Both parties can and should support that."
Under current law, the VA can only waive the state license requirement for treatment if both the physician and patient are located in a federally-owned facility. The Veterans' Telemedicine Act removes these barriers and allows the VA to provide treatment free of this restriction. Veterans will no longer be required to travel to a VA facility, but rather can receive telemedicine treatment anywhere, including their home or a community center.
"Nearly eighteen veterans commit suicide every day," Bishop said. "Each one is a tragedy. It is my hope that this bill will assist Veterans struggling with mental health conditions by increasing the ease of access to facilities with necessary resources and mental health professionals."
The bipartisan Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2012 has been endorsed by: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Telemedicine Association and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.