LoBiondo Seeks to Expand Telemedicine Options for Veterans

May 3, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his ongoing efforts to break down barriers to access to care for South Jersey veterans, U.S. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) is cosponsoring H.R. 2123, the “Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act,” which would allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) health professionals to practice telemedicine across state lines if they are qualified and practice within the scope of their authorized duties. The “VETS Act” was introduced by Representatives Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-05) and Julia Brownley (CA-26).

“When we have expanded our CBOCs in Northfield and Vineland, we have added additional staffing and new services such as telemedicine to the benefit of South Jersey veterans. However, given our Congressional district is a third of the state of New Jersey geographically, it can still be an inconvenience for some of our veterans to connect with care professionals,” said LoBiondo. “Representative Thompson’s legislation complements my efforts to remove barriers to care for South Jersey veterans and echoes the sentiment of local advocates who have long agreed that our veterans should have greater choice and ease of access in receiving treatment. This is the mission that never ends.”

VA doctors are restricted by current law to only provide telehealth treatment across state lines if the veteran and the doctor are located in federal facilities. The bipartisan VETS Act would remove these barriers and allow the VA to provide treatment through its physicians without restriction. Veterans would no longer be required to travel to a VA facility such as a community-based outpatient clinic, but rather could receive telemedicine treatment from the location of their choosing, including their home.

According to a 2014 VA report, telehealth options helped reduce bed days of care by 59 percent, reduce hospital admission by 35 percent, and saved patients an average of $2,000 annually. The VETS Act is endorsed by the American Legion, the American Telemedicine Association, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

LoBiondo previously introduced his “Veterans Health ID Act” (H.R. 763) to create a pilot program “under which eligible veterans may elect to receive hospital care and medical services at non-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.” His bill would require the VA to establish a pilot program in each Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) that grant an eligible veteran a “unique identification card” which allows for medical care at non-VA facilities at the VA’s expense. Furthermore, LoBiondo’s legislation specifically states that New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District will be one of the pilot programs. South Jersey is part of VISN 4. The pilot programs would need to be established and operating within one year of LoBiondo’s bill being signed into law.