Summary

While the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides telehealth services across the country, current services neglect to respond to the access challenges that constrain veterans, particularly in rural areas. Of the nearly 5 million veterans who live in rural areas, 45% lack access to reliable broadband internet and smart technology. In the absence of available or reliable internet, veterans are often forced to access telehealth services in person at VA Clinical Resource Hubs (CRHs). However, these facilities are limited in number and are typically located far from rural communities. To address digital inequities and constraints posed by infrastructure and geography, the VHA needs to create more ways for veterans to access and fully utilize telehealth. We propose that the VHA partner with federal agencies like the United States Postal Service (USPS) or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), leveraging their infrastructure to develop telehealth hubs. We further suggest that the VHA develop and lead a federal taskforce to build critical technology infrastructure that will facilitate expansion and use of telehealth for veterans. These interventions will be vital for ensuring that veterans in rural communities have greater access to care and can not only survive but thrive.