VA Expands Virtual Services to Support Veterans During COVID-19 Pandemic

veteran holiding the United States Flag

The Department of Veterans Affairs has increased virtual services available to Veterans online as it closes offices and curtails in-person services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Veterans who have not needed services recently may have missed the closing of all 56 regional Veterans Benefits Administration offices to the public on March 19. The VA also discontinued Transition Assistance Program benefits briefings and services on military installations for transitioning service members and their families as of March 30.

However, the VA says in a news release that many in-person services are available via the phone or online through virtual options such as VA Video Connect.

The VA is promising:

  • Uninterrupted GI Bill payments so students continue to receive their benefits unaffected by any change from in-person to online learning.
  • Educational counseling online and via the telephone to support students.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services for Veterans through teleconferencing; case management and general counseling through VA Video Connect.
  • Informal conference hearings by telephone or video conferencing when needed.
  • Collection of information by telephone to process fiduciary claims. When necessary, other accommodations will be arranged.
  • Gathering of information via phone or teleconference when possible to process grant requests for special adaptive housing.
  • Examinations for disability benefits using tele-compensation and pension (“tele-C&P”) exams. If an in-person exam is required, Veterans will be notified for scheduling.
  • Virtual briefings and individualized counseling for transitioning service members where possible. Service members who have not received these briefings, as required by TAP, may access the Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) platform and register for “TGPS-US006: VA Benefits and Services.”

Virtual VA Healthcare Services for Veterans During COVID-19veterans disability lawyers

A report in Healthcare IT News reviews the VA’s plan to provide most outpatient care for veterans through telehealth services in response to COVID-19. The plan identifies telehealth services as a preferred delivery system when possible.

“Telehealth” is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.

VA clinics are to attempt to shift to a telehealth mode with phone, video, and/or electronic communication to meet the immediate needs of ambulatory patients, with the exception of some urgent care (including primary and mental health), the VA COVID-19 response plan says.

Veterans with mild COVID-19 symptoms who can stay home will be managed through telehealth and the potential use of mobile services, such as the Annie App – a VA service that sends automated text messages to Veterans to help them stay focused on their self-care and assist with follow-up.

“With approximately 80 percent of persons with COVID-19 having asymptomatic disease or mild symptoms, limited inpatient resources should be reserved for those with severe disease or significant contraindications to at-home quarantine or isolation,” the VA concluded.

The plan says the VA will:

  • Implement telehealth programs to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases entering medical facilities.
  • Support Veterans in voluntary home isolation through telehealth.
  • Use telehealth technology to monitor and track patients under care in home quarantine.
  • Conduct mental health, medical, and surgical specialty consultation using non-face-to-face methods when possible.
  • Train and equip readjustment counselors to provide virtual services via VA Video Connect.
  • Ensure VA chaplains are trained in telehealth to provide spiritual care for Veterans via VA Video Connect.

Healthcare IT News says the VA “has been prioritizing telehealth in a big way since long before the pandemic and has been seeing record engagement numbers.” Previously, the VA reported that it delivered more than 2.6 million episodes of telehealth care in FY 2019 to more than 900,000 Veterans.

Assisting Veterans Before, During, After COVID-19

Our veterans’ disability lawyers at Joye Law Firm in South Carolina honor the service of our veterans. We fight to ensure that the men and women who served our nation in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard receive the full benefits that they have been promised through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Our attorneys offer free consultations to veterans who are disabled as a result of military service and have been denied appropriate disability benefits from the VA. Our experienced veterans’ disability attorneys can navigate the VA bureaucracy, work through the appeals process and help you seek the financial compensation and medical benefits available to disabled veterans.

We welcome veterans from all branches of service. We work to help veterans obtain benefits, whether your disability is related to combat wounds, training injuries, PTSD, chemical exposure, or any service-connected loss.

Whether you need to appeal a VA decision on a denied claim, get your disability rating increased or seek additional VA benefits you now qualify for, Joye Law Firm is ready to stand with you.

We don’t accept payment unless we recover benefits for you. For a free consultation and review of your claim for VA disability benefits, please call Joye Law Firm at 877-936-9707 or use our online contact form. Our aggressive and experienced VA disability attorneys will fight for you.

About the Author