WASHINGTON - U.S. Reps. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, R-Howard, and Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., Friday introduced H.R. 6107, the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2012, a bill aimed at increasing veteran health care access at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
H.R. 6107 expands the current Department of Veteran Affairs state licensure exemption to allow credentialed health care professionals to work across state borders performing telemedicine without having to obtain a new state license.
"The Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act will help veterans struggling with mental health conditions, especially those in geographically remote areas, access the care they need wherever they are located," said Thompson.
"This bill enables the VA to expand key treatment services, including behavioral health, which is critical considering the department is facing increasing care demand and mounting provider shortages."
Under current law, VA health care professionals must be licensed in the state where the patient is treated in order to offer services.
The state licensure requirement has limited the department's ability to utilize telemedicine capabilities, which have been known as an effective medium for delivering a wide range of care services.
The VETS Act removes these barriers and allows the VA to provide treatment free of this restriction.
"In 2011, Congress passed the Servicemembers Telemedicine and E-Health Portability Act, through which the Department of Defense is now working to expand access to our servicemembers through various existing programs," Thompson said.
"The VETS Act will enable the VA to implement the same reforms and provide greater access to care that our veterans need, have earned and rightfully deserve."
Thompson's Servicemembers Telemedicine and E-Health Portability (STEP) Act, now Public Law 112-81, Section 713, removed the state licensure requirement for qualified and credentialed Department of Defense health care professionals. Since its passage, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former Army vice chief of staff, has praised the law as the "biggest step forward we've seen in two years," in terms of expanding servicemember access to mental health services.
H.R. 6107 was introduced with the support of 12 additional bipartisan members of Congress and numerous veteran support groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and American Telemedicine Association.