Eligible Veterans can now receive free Portal from Facebook video calling devices thanks to a partnership with Facebook and the American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network.

The devices help Veterans connect with their Caregivers, families and friends to reduce isolation and improve social connectivity.

Facebook donated over 7,400 Portal video calling devices for Veterans and their Caregiver or family member. Veterans and families in VA’s Office of Caregiver Support program, VA’s Geriatric Services and Extended Care program, or individuals identified as at-risk for suicide by a VA provider are eligible to receive Portals through this program.

“Veterans, families and caregivers will benefit through an increased support system,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Our goal is for Veterans to feel less isolated through more communication. We believe this technology will help Veterans who might otherwise be unreachable.”

The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, office initiated the partnership.

“As a proud supporter of the military and Veteran community, Facebook is committed to providing Veterans with meaningful ways to connect with the people they care about,” said Payton Iheme, Military and Veteran Policy Lead at Facebook. “We hope that by using these Portal video calling devices Veterans and their caregivers will be able to feel less isolated and more present with their friends and family no matter where they are.”

Veterans must meet certain eligibility requirements.

About the devices

Portal from Facebook is a home video communications device that makes it easier for people to connect with each other. The Portal video-calling devices have a Smart Camera that keeps up with the action so people can move and talk hands-free. If someone enters the room, the camera automatically widens to keep everyone in view. Portal’s Smart Sound enhances the voice of whoever is speaking while minimizing unwanted background noises.

Veterans and their caregivers can use Portal to makes video calls to their contacts on Messenger and WhatsApp. This allows them to easily video call with friends and family even if they don’t have Portal. WhatsApp calls are end-to-end encrypted. Messenger calls encrypt in-transit. Users can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap. They can also block the camera lens with the camera cover provided.

The devices also have Alexa built-in. This allows users to listen to music, set a timer, add items to a shopping list and more. When not on a call, Portal can display Facebook photos and videos. Users can also choose to upload photos through the Portal app.

The devices do not come with Internet service provided. Both the Veteran and the Caregiver or family member must have a 2.4GHz or 5GHz WIFI capability. This can include a cell phone with hotspot connectivity. Facebook will provide free help desk services and technical assistance for Veterans and their Caregiver or families. Users must have a Facebook or WhatsApp account to use the devices.

Getting a device

The American Red Cross Military Veterans Caregiver Network website will host the link to request a pair of free Portals by Facebook. The American Red Cross will store and ship the Portals on behalf of VA. Veterans, Caregivers and families can request the Portals through the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network athttps://www.redcross.org/get-help/military-families/services-for-veterans/military-veteran-caregiver-network/request-your-va-facebook-portal.html. Use Google Chrome for the best experience.

“The American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network is honored to play a role in the distribution of these Portals by Facebook in partnership with VA,” said Melissa Comeau, American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network. “This partnership is committed to meeting the needs of military and Veteran caregivers who are experiencing social isolation and is achieved through a shared appreciation for the use of technology to bring support.”

Once Veterans apply through the link, VA will validate that the Veterans are in one of the VA programs. Once the Red Cross receives confirmation of eligibility from VA, the portal shipping process starts. The process can take from four to six weeks.

Veterans should click here to apply.

Disclaimer: The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products or services on behalf of VA.

By Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team.

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Published on Apr. 15, 2020

Estimated reading time is 3.5 min.

Views to date: 1,288


  1. linda creesy May 4, 2020 at 8:37 am

    red cross denies it is a hoax, refers me to this story despite the fact every social worker i have spoken too kniws nithing about this. i want to report this to a higher authority but not sure whom.

  2. linda creesy April 28, 2020 at 8:21 am

    so i called my social worker and she had no idea about this nor did she even know what a portal is. she did promise to make some phone calls to try to get a status updte. she did, however, enroll me in a program to receive a free ipad nd web camer for video telehealth appointments.

    • Shelia Young April 28, 2020 at 11:17 am

      My father is a veteran and I the moment the email came out about the free portals, I registered him and thus far I have not heard from anyone, did not receive an email response that the information was received. Does anyone have a contact number, I’ll be happy to make a call and post the results of my call here on this email. Thank you all in advance – also kindly know I am a Social Worker as well.

      • linda creesy April 30, 2020 at 7:40 am

        fyi, i contacted my social worker who knew nothing. she contacted the coordinator at the orlando va hospital who also knew nothing. i really believe this is a hoax.

        • linda creesy May 3, 2020 at 7:43 am

          the caregiver support coordinator at the orlando va hospital was advised it was first come, first serv but has heard nothing since.

  3. linda creesy April 27, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    here’s what the red cross told me, they are waiting for a list of eligible people from the va. once they get the list, they will start shipping but could take 4 to 6 weeks. any questions, contact your social worker.

  4. linda creesy April 25, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    i’m starting to think this is a joke. i reached out to a stars and stripes reporter who covers the va, that i follow on twitter. she has left messages for the red cross to give her a status update. and so far they haven’t responded.

  5. linda creesy April 22, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    i applied last thursday morning. i am enrolled in the home health aide program. there was no email response when i applied or even now. anyone actually heard about their application?

  6. DANIEL E PEREZ April 20, 2020 at 10:16 am

    No one at my facility knows how to do this. They have no idea what to do.

  7. Michael A. Brand April 18, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    I applied for one within one hour of the email being received. The drop down box only has two options and not one for those of us who are at risk of suicide. Thursday I called and was told there were 1700 left but there was a glitch which left at risk category out on application. Friday (yesterday) I was told they were all gone but I could get on a waiting list. AGAIN, there is no option to click “At Risk” on this application. So, won’t be considered on waiting list either ???? Seems as though I should have gotten the units since I was one of the first to respond on Wednesday and there were still units available the following morning Thursday.

    • linda creesy April 22, 2020 at 3:01 pm

      they said 4 to 6 weeks

  8. Hester Adamson April 18, 2020 at 1:08 am

    We bought the Facebook Portals through HSN because we could make payments on them. Bought them 5 months ago and have found them to be a waste a money. We told everyone that we had them and no one wants to call us on them. We have done all the calling. Even my brother used to video chat with me and since we got the portal and I called him, he has not video chatted me since. One of my dogs knocked mine off my computer table for the 4th time so I unplugged it and put it away. So disappointed in my family and friends. We have been home during this whole COVID-19 thing and with no friends and family nearby has really been twice as hard. Last year I had an arguement with a neighbor and it upset me so bad that I ended up being locked away for a week so that I would not hurt myself. Then a week of day hospital before being released in my husband’s care. He is 100% disabled and I am 60% disabled so we don’t get out much. I am just so frustrated and lonely.

  9. Clarence Jenkins April 17, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    I’m a veteran living in assisted living facility am I eligible for portal plus I go to Va facility in perry point md mental health program

  10. Nikki Roth April 17, 2020 at 9:44 am

    Do you have contact info for someone I can reach out with questions about this? I’d like to request one for my grandmother who is a widow of a vet. My grand father passed just a couple of months ago and my grandmother is now on her own. She is a senior facility that is locked down and doesn’t have much of a way to connect with her family. I don’t know if she meets the requirements but she is more than worthy and in need. Please let me know if there’s someone I can speak to directly. Thank you!

    • linda creesy April 24, 2020 at 11:57 am

      the american red cross is in charge of distribution. but the va has to approve first. that’s my understanding.

  11. Valerie Lewis April 16, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    @DanielBezet – has anyone contacted you yet? Did you call the VA Crisis line? Please let me know how we can help?

  12. Thomas E Peters Sr April 16, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    I am a 100% Permanent Disabled and Homebound Veteran with both Cancer and PTSD. I am not suicidal but I do have video meetings with my Community Based Outpatient Clinic (Community Mental Health and my Psychiatric Dr.) Living in an area where WiFi is not available except for satellite which is beyond my income. So even if I had the Portal what good would it do?
    To do video conferencing, I have to travel to a library – which is closed – to sit in their parking lot to use their WiFi.
    God bless my Brothers and Sisters in Arms for their service.

    • Valerie Lewis April 16, 2020 at 3:07 pm

      Mr. Peters,

      I pray that the God of all Comfort will keep you safe, ease your pain and provide you the things and services you need. I will continue to keep you in my prayers. I pray you are eased of all discomfort even if it’s for a short while.

  13. D Purcell April 16, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    There are good questions in the comment section, will we receive answers to questions. I am concerned about FB and its history of online intrusion. Nothing online is confidential but how do we know our conversations will be kept private and not used for their marketing or any other purpose?

  14. John Davidson April 16, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    I just had an exam with my primary physician at the Columbus VA Cline over the phone. I was told I have to come to the clinic to get my second shingles shot. I asked if I could get the bloodwork done at that time and was told I could. no appointment needed. I paid our local senior center for the 80 mile round trip. They checked to make sure I didn’t have a fever. Then checked a computer and told me I I didn’t have an appointment. We argued for a while and stile was held up so I walked away not a very happy82 year old veteran. I tried to call my primary physicians office and got no answer. I will file a complaint with my representative like I did 10 years ago.

  15. Michael Flanigan April 16, 2020 at 11:26 am

    Great but We Vets on Disability Pension Only Income – Have to Inform IRS Our Direct Deposit info to Get Our Stimulus $ –
    And the Treasury Already Has Our Direct Deposit info from Our Direct Express Card Accounts ? Just Another Stupid Hoop we Vets Have to Jump Through ? I have Tried 28 Times to use the Non-File IRS Site – and been Rejected each Time Over a –
    P-PIN Problem – I don’t File Taxes so How the Heck Would I Have a P-PIN # Its Just F-ing Stupid !!!!

    • Chris April 16, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      If you already have your comp & pension or social security funds direct deposited the government already have your information so you don’t have to enter it.

  16. John Miles April 16, 2020 at 11:02 am

    Can I simply download the WhatsApp on my android tablet and communicate as well?

  17. Daniel E Bezet April 16, 2020 at 10:23 am

    I am a disabled vet and in need of some counseling for my wife and I. I am 70 years old and have had some personal problems that have caused us major problems. If I don’t get help soon it will be over for us. Please tell me what I can do.

    • Adam Stump April 16, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      Mr. Bezet–The Veterans Crisis Line number is 1-800-273-8255 – then Press 1. There’s also a helpful blog about VA resources to assist you during this stressful time at https://vaww.blogstest.va.gov/VAntage/72665/veterans-stressed-coronavirus/. You can also find your nearest VA location at https://www.va.gov/find-locations. Many locations greatly expanded their telemental health appointments to assist during this time via VA Video Connect, which you can read about at https://vaww.blogstest.va.gov/VAntage/73695/va-telehealth-ensures-continuity-care-veterans/.

      • Valerie Lewis April 16, 2020 at 3:03 pm

        Mr. Stump,

        How about personally finding out if him and his wife are safe and offering your number or at least get his number so nobody dies. Nobody had to die.

      • George Carroll April 22, 2020 at 5:56 pm

        Dear Adam: For a “PRESIDENTS End Tragedy” Program, endorsed by Secretary Wilkie, run by the Red Cross and dunked and mailed by Facebook, something’s wrong in Denmark. Having called everyone except the President and Secretary Wilikie, everyone passes the buck. I’ve time stamped the original application and now time stamped the WAIT LIST for lack of competent answers!!! Who (Red Cross) contacted with Veer West to take online applications and not provide a receipt (ie application # 15,031 of 7,700). Obviously Veer West must have convinced the VA that in an instant today’s relational database form record checking could immediately affirm eligibility but that would be to logical. EVERYONE says the process has stopped and is hung up in some unknown Office of Primary Responsibility (OPM) an the VA “CENTRAL OFFICE” The Red Cross OPM insists she is helpless to move the VA to verify 7,400 applications. Again an AUTOMATED records cross check should take Veer West and VA computing mere seconds. Can you provide a name, phone number and email address for the responsible party at the VA that answers to the Secretary for this now frustrating but essential program and offer?

    • Valerie Lewis April 16, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      Please reach out through the VA Crisis line and get some help through the system.

    • Richard L. Hill April 16, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      I’m 73 years old and was married 48 years, until my wife passed away 6 years ago. We had tried marriage counselors with poor results. I am a combat vet and had been diagnosed with PTSD. I believe most marriage counselors can’t handle that. I received quite a lot of counselling at the VA. I only had one young female psychologist who was so far out in left field she was worse off than I was! So if you’re a combat vet also, see about getting evaluated for PTSD at the VA. When I was diagnosed and received counselling it gave my wife more confidence about our marriage and brought us closer together. She even came to some PTSD sessions with me to help her understand my problems and how they affected our marriage. I know it saved my marriage so we could make it to 48 years.

  18. Kim Kenney April 16, 2020 at 9:50 am

    Are Veterans from Canada also eligible for this program or is this simply a American make program

    Kim Kenney

  19. Marc Simmons April 16, 2020 at 9:32 am

    This is a fantastic idea. I am sorry about the negative comments on here. The fact that a company is showing support to veterans is amazing and I am all for it. Thank you Facebook for doing this. I do not qualify but I know these will go to people who do and they will be very thankful.

  20. James Walker April 16, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Hey Jimmy,
    You’re absolutely right. I just remembered being stationed in Guam. A couple of us sailors and there were marines there too, went downtown Agana for a night on the town. There wasn’t much to do in Guam so we had a few drinks and did a little souvenir shopping. It wasn’t so bad but it didn’t take long to understand that we were attracting the wrong crowd.
    It seemed innocent but all these people were interested in was our money. We had cash to spend and paychecks and we became easy prey if we weren’t careful.
    The same thing is still true today, only worse because there are still people trying to separate us from our pay only we can’t see them. I’ve learned how to be vigilant on anything I do online, especially when it comes to finances. Thanks for the info.
    Jimmy Walker (yep thats my real name, well its legally James. There are too many of us. Another way to be targeted )

  21. William Hurl April 16, 2020 at 8:12 am

    So it only gives the option for caregivers or geriatric. The at risk for suicide is the third eligibility criteria but when you follow the link there is no box for that. Typical trump bs. We’re going to help suicide. Here’s a carrot. Wait, too slow. What a joke.

  22. Jimmy Walker April 15, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    I know that you think the Facebook portal is a good idea, but it’s probably going to leave the Veteran and the other party exposed to very intrusive technology. It has been proven time and again that these big tech companies are using anything that you say or they see against you. Your information is being sold.

  23. Chief Points April 15, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    I really hope that those who have orchestrated this program put in protections to prevent one of the largest collectors and sellers of private/sensitive information, Facebook, from harvesting data on these donated devices. Given their medical use and HIPAA concerns, there should be absolutely no harvesting of information allowed on these devices. Please check into that and ensure compliance from the external organizations. Just the fact that Facebook is involved at all worries me quite a bit, as they’ve shown absolutely no remorse for trampling on people’s privacy and harvesting data without notification. I am hopeful these concerns are addressed within the program, as it has the opportunity to do a world of good – but that good shouldn’t come at the cost of privacy and security.

    • BillyAndyIII April 16, 2020 at 10:12 am

      Chief Points, agreed. As soon as I had read that Facebook was behind giving out the devices, my Spidey senses started tingling. Knowing how they love to find all sorts of ways to gather people’s data, I wouldn’t put it past them using those devices for nefarious reasons.

      • Dorie C Perez April 16, 2020 at 1:33 pm

        Agreed, well stated.

  24. Karen Breeck MD April 15, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Brilliant idea – BZ to Facebook and Red Cross to work with VA on this excellent initiative. Especially with the onset now of COVIDs videoconferencing capacity to see and talk to family and friends and do telemedicine and access primary and speciality medical care all from the safety of your home are necessities and not luxuries. Unfortunately especially many of our older veterans simply do not have this capacity technologically or the means. Especially given COVIDs – I think this is an urgent gap to address with our already vulnerable community members.

    If its possible to forward my name and email to any of the people involved in setting up this program in the US – I would love to see if I can help connect up people to help set up a similar program in Canada for Canadian veterans.

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