Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Members of the Republican California Congressional Delegation and the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, led the fight to ensure that California's veterans have access to critical and lifesaving telemedicine in a letter to Marybel Batjer, President of the California Public Utilities Commission.
In the letter, Ranking Member Bost, Leader McCarthy, and 18 Members of Congress demanded that the Commission not implement Section 3101(a)(6) of California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018, so as not to deny veterans in the state access to health care. If the Commission must implement this provision of state law, the Members called on the Commission to seek its repeal immediately.
'Telehealth provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs' VA Video Connect application has been a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and VA's partnerships with AT&T, TracFone, T-Mobile, and Verizon have helped increase video telehealth usage to over 40,000 daily appointments,' the Members wrote in the letter.
'These strategic partnerships between VA and the carriers to waive data consumption for VA Video Connect have significantly increased access for veterans who rely on smart phones but cannot afford unlimited data plans.'
'The passage of the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 should not invalidate these partnerships, and we have long warned that net neutrality mandates could have these types of impacts,' the Members continued.
'It is hard to imagine that inhibiting the expansion of telehealth access to veterans was anyone's intention when writing the law, and a clear signal is needed to dispel the regulatory uncertainty.'
Full text of the letter the Members sent to the President of the California Public Utilities Commission can be found here
Last week, Ranking Member Bost and Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Ranking Member Moran sent a letter to VA Secretary McDonough regarding this same issue. In the letter, the Members urged the Secretary to take immediate action to protect veterans' access to VA video services. Full text of that letter can be found here