The Northwest Pennsylvania (NW PA) Veteran Suicide Prevention Program operates on a three-pronged approach involving healthcare providers, community organizations, and Veterans and their families in the 15 counties of NW PA. Because of this focus, we want to share this recent story by VA regarding increasing internet access for Veterans in rural areas. There are more than 4 million Veterans in the United States who live in rural areas and face unique health care challenges, such as fewer local health care options and longer travel times to visit medical centers. VA is working to expand access to care in rural communities through telehealth and other virtual means. If you or a Veteran you know would benefit from increased access to the internet to access VA virtual care, keep reading to learn about the options available.
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Know a Veteran Who Needs Internet Access? Request a Digital Divide Consult
By VA Office of Connected Care Communications
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According to the Office of Rural Health, 20% of Veterans in rural areas do not access the internet at home. VA is working to close this “digital divide,” the gap between people who do and do not have access to the internet and internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, tablets and computers.
For Veterans who want to use VA telehealth but don’t have internet service or an internet-connected device, their VA care team can refer them to a social worker who will assist the Veteran with their internet and technology options. This Digital Divide Consult is a process that connects Veterans who don’t have internet access or a video-capable device with programs and resources that may be able to provide the internet service or technology needed for video visits. More than 140,000 Veterans across the country have gone through the consultation process to date.
Once a Veteran can get online, they can have video telehealth appointments from home. This reduces the time and expense of traveling to a VA facility—an important benefit for Veterans in rural parts of the country.
If you’re interested in a Digital Divide Consult, talk with your VA provider.
Learn About Clinical Resource Hubs
All 18 of VA’s Veterans Integrated Service Networks have Clinical Resource Hubs that offer a combination of in-person care and telehealth services. When local VA facilities have gaps in service capabilities, Clinical Resource Hubs can offer Veterans a full range of VA services.
Use VA Video Connect with fewer worries about cellular data fees
Through VA Video Connect, VA’s videoconferencing app, Veterans can have secure video visits with their VA care team using an internet-capable device.
AT&T, SafeLink by TracFone, T-Mobile and Verizon help Veteran subscribers avoid data charges when using VA Video Connect on their networks. This enables Veterans to connect with their VA care team with fewer worries about data fees. For more information, visit the mobile carrier programs webpage.
Find an ATLAS location near you
If a Veteran doesn’t have in-home internet access or doesn’t wish to have video appointments from home, they can see if there is an ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations) site in their area. ATLAS sites offer Veterans comfortable private spaces equipped with internet access and the technology needed to meet with VA providers through VA Video Connect.
Sites must be associated with the VA medical center where the Veteran is enrolled in care. ATLAS sites are located in select American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Walmart stores and more.
Check out My HealtheVet and VA apps
Veterans can use My HealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal, to manage their care from home. They can use it to request their VA prescription refills, review their VA medical records, manage their VA appointments and connect with their VA providers directly through Secure Messaging.
Veterans can also take charge of their health with the tools on the VA App Store. VA apps are designed to help Veterans with sleep issues, weight management, tobacco cessation, the effects of military sexual trauma, anger management and much more.
VA provides a variety of ways for Veterans to access high-quality care remotely. If you or a Veteran you know would benefit from virtual care options, contact your VA care team or visit the Office of Connected Care website.
Looking to Get Involved?
Whether you identify as a healthcare provider, community organization, or Veteran, there are several opportunities through the NW PA Veteran Suicide Prevention Program and PERU to connect to resources, participate in educational training, and promote harm reduction strategies. We are actively recruiting healthcare and community partners to work with us in meeting our goals and objectives. To learn more, visit the program website at theresilientveteran.org.
Need Help? Know Someone Who Does? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.