Denis McDonough, the secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), said his agency is leading the way in normalizing telehealth for annual visits and mental health services, and it’s not planning on stopping remote health care anytime soon.

“The VA is leading the country in standardizing the use of telehealth for routine doctor visits,” McDonough said during a March 4 White House press briefing. “We’re partnering with community and service organizations so that vets do not forego checkups because of broadband limitations.”

In March of last year, McDonough said, the VA averaged about 2,500 telehealth visits a day, but last month it averaged almost 45,000 visits a day. With this huge increase, McDonough stressed that funding in the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion the American Rescue Plan is needed “to sustain this up-tempo for our veterans so we can continue to push through the pandemic.”

Additionally, McDonough said the availability of telehealth appointments has been a huge mental health resource for veterans.

“The most important set of lessons I think we have to draw from is the availability of the telehealth platform. Demand for mental health services is up. I think that’s a good sign because it speaks to the fact that stigma is being reduced. However, there’s still too much,” said McDonough.

According to McDonough, VA has also partnered with its providers and local communities to establish contact with at-risk vets and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and seeking services related to it.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.