To Address Veteran Suicide in Maine, Poliquin Works With Democrats, Republicans to Improve Access to Crucial PTSD Treatments
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Poliquin, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) in introducing the Enhancing Veterans Experience with Telehealth Services Act (the eVETS Act), bipartisan legislation to improve access to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment via telemedicine.
The introduction comes less than a week after the Department of Veterans Affairs reported an alarming surge in the suicide rate among veterans. The bill seeks to remove barriers that stand in the way of vital, evidence-based treatments for veterans with PTSD.
“Tragically, the rate of Veteran suicide in Maine—which is home to more than 114,000 Veterans—is significantly higher than the national level,” said Congressman Poliquin. “As a new member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve made it a priority since joining to help address this crisis. I’m proud to work across the aisle with Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kuster of New Hampshire to introduce this important piece of legislation which will help Maine Veterans living in rural areas receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Further, the eVETS Act will build upon partnerships, such as one that is underway in Maine—Microsoft’s Rural Airband program—to increase Veterans access to the Internet while allowing them to receive essential treatment.”
“This bill is designed to improve access to treatment and help save the lives of veterans who are feeling discouraged and hopeless,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “In rural communities in New Hampshire, the nearest VA facility can be an hours’ drive away, deterring many from obtaining help. For these veterans, qualified, private therapists are few and far between. By rapidly expanding the VA’s offering of telehealth to these areas, we hope to address obstacles that have kept far too many veterans from receiving care. I’m grateful that my colleagues could come together to recognize the need for this bill and to help ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.”
Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to take their own lives than those who never served in the military. eVETS seeks to build upon and expand the VA’s offering of telehealth treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to veterans living in rural areas of 10 states. Those states possess the highest per capita rates of veterans in rural communities for a total of about 674,000, including 47,000 Granite State veterans, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The bill allows veterans to choose between two extensively researched methods of treatment; prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy. It also guarantees each patient at least a dozen therapy sessions. The care will be delivered via the VA’s video conferencing software.
Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Alex Mooney (WV-01), Greg Gianforte (MT-AL), Bruce Westerman (AR-03) and Peter Welch (VT-AL) are also cosponsoring the bill.