The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working to bridge the digital divide by helping veterans get access to the broadband internet access they need for telehealth care and by expanding telehealth services.
According to a 2019 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report, 15% of veteran households do not have an internet connection. One-third of the nine million veterans enrolled in VA live in rural communities. For these veterans, the hurdles to accessing telehealth services can be difficult to overcome. Veterans living in rural communities often face barriers when it comes to seeking care through VA — traveling to VA medical centers can be expensive, time-consuming and frustrating.
VA is breaking down these barriers by expanding access to broadband internet through programs making the services more affordable and being able to provide more veterans with telehealth options.
The national Lifeline program for low-income consumers provides discounted phone and broadband service that many veterans may be eligible for. People enrolled in Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Programs may qualify for eligibility. To learn more about the Lifeline program and to see if you qualify, click here.
The FCC Affordable Connectivity Program provides eligible households with discounts toward home internet service. The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a discount of up to $30 each month for qualifying households and up to $75 monthly for qualifying households on tribal lands. Additionally, eligible households may receive a one-time discount to purchase a computer or tablet from participating providers.
To find out if you qualify, visit the White House’s Get Internet site or visit the Affordable Connectivity Program through an approved carrier by visiting www.fcc.gov/ACP, or by calling 877-384-2575. To submit an application, go to ACPBenefit.org.
Another pathway for rural veterans seeking telehealth services through VA is Project ATLAS. Project ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations) brings VA health-care access closer to veterans through an innovative program in which Philips and The American Legion work together to combine the convenience of the retail clinic model with Philips telehealth technology and access to VA care givers in local American Legion posts.
Project ATLAS sites will help mitigate some of these barriers to provide better and more holistic care for veterans. The ATLAS pods are equipped with patient monitoring solutions, wireless technology and sensing devices that allow veterans to receive clinical services. Additionally, veterans can receive mental health counseling at Project ATLAS locations. To learn more about Project ATLAS, visit https://connectedcare.va.gov/partners/atlas.
In May 2021, The American Legion’s National Executive Committee recognized the importance of broadband internet access by passing Resolution No. 1: Expansion of Broadband in Rural Areas. The resolution calls on the Federal Communications Commission, and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce to prioritize the expansion of broadband in rural America.