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Telemental Health Care for Veterans

Monday, April 11, 2022
Telemental Health Care for Veterans

In order to remove the gaps in access to telehealth, recent legislation would require the VA to investigate the technology necessary to implement a more robust telehealth program.

Advocacy groups and lawmakers are calling for the expansion of telemental health care for veterans. While the Department of Veterans Affairs has utilized telehealth for decades, this form of support became more prominent in response to the pandemic. Social distancing, however, is not necessarily seen as the driving factor behind a veteran’s preference for virtual support.

Many veterans may be hesitant to seek in-person care at VA facilities due to the military-related surroundings or the presence of other service members. Regarding why veterans may shy away from visits to the VA, Samantha Connolly, a clinical psychologist for the VA Boston Healthcare System, said that “they don’t want to sit in a waiting room with other veterans and maybe see regalia or just memories of their time in the service.” 

Although primarily attributed to negative military experiences, the stigma associated with mental health care can also be a deterrent to carry out face-to-face visits. According to former active-duty mental health therapist Kenneth Marfilius, veterans “might feel more comfortable engaging in a telemental health appointment from the comfort of their home, especially if there’s a certain level of anxiety or even some PTSD symptoms that could potentially flare up by going to the clinic.”

Telemental health care for veterans, while considered adequate, is still in need of improvement. Lack of access to the technology required to connect to a telehealth appointment is one of the main reasons for pursuing enhancements. Third parties have been instrumental in providing participants with a safe space to access computers and the internet. Still, the locations are few and far between.

In order to remove the gaps in access to telehealth, recent legislation would require the VA to investigate the technology necessary to implement a more robust telehealth program. In late 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs Telehealth Strategy Act was introduced to the House of Representatives and is awaiting passage before advancing to the Senate. If passed, the bill still requires several steps through the legislative process before it is signed into law by the President.

Given that telemental health visits will continue to increase, as past trends indicate, the VA must match the infrastructure to meet the demand. With the attention that mental health has been receiving from the government, it is hopeful that these initiatives will move in a positive direction.

While many veteran-related issues are actively being addressed, hurdles barring veterans from getting the help they need, continue to exist. Our New York disability lawyers are here to assist with any questions regarding veterans disability benefits. Call us at 855-208-7783 or complete an online intake form on our website to schedule a free initial consultation today. We serve Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and more.

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