Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) and Jim Banks (R-IN) today introduced the VA Expanded Care Hours (ECHO) Act, bipartisan legislation that would help expand veterans’ access to care. The VA ECHO Act would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to study the attitudes of eligible veterans toward the Department of Veterans Affairs offering appointments outside the usual operating hours of facilities of the Department, including through the use of telehealth appointments, and share its findings on the feasibility and advisability of expanding care.
This legislation would provide the data necessary to ensure veterans are able to receive the care they deserve, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the VA, the number of veterans using virtual healthcare spiked by 800% in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, with 11 million virtual prescription requests already fulfilled and 1.1 million mental telehealth appointments completed already.
“One of the largest barriers preventing Lowcountry veterans from receiving the care they deserve is inflexible care hours at the VA, especially when it comes to mental health concerns,” said Rep. Joe Cunningham. “This bipartisan legislation will help us determine if expanding VA care hours to outside the usual operating timeframe and using telehealth appointments helps increase veterans’ ability to access the care they need. We must do everything we can to support our nation’s heroes and prevent veteran suicide. Ensuring our veterans are able to readily access the best possible service in a way that’s convenient for them is a strong start.”
"Coronavirus turned telehealth into an indispensable tool for delivering high-quality care to veterans. But telehealth is still a new technology, and we need to learn more about it to ensure its robust and sustainable. That's why this legislation, which gives VA feedback from veterans and employees about its telehealth services, is so important,” said Rep. Jim Banks.
“I hear from veterans all the time about how difficult—or even impossible—it can be to schedule health care appointments during standard work week hours. That’s why I support Rep. Cunningham’s new legislation that will direct VA to survey veterans and providers about offering appointments during expanded hours. Removing that barrier to access is one more way we can support veterans in crisis and help prevent veteran suicide,” said Chairman Mark Takano.