This year, many Veterans have used VA telehealth services for the first time. They have used VA technologies such as My HealtheVet and VA Video Connect to connect with their VA care teams. But for some older Veterans, telehealth presented a challenge. They did not have the technology required to take part.

Hannah Verma and Aakshi Agarwal, college students at Yale University, and Arjun Verma, a junior in high school, created a way to help these Veterans connect with VA care.

Volunteers pose with boxes of iPhones and iPads they're donating to help older Veterans access telehealth services.

Volunteers pose with boxes of iPhones and iPads they’re donating to help older Veterans access telehealth services.

Siblings Arjun and Hannah Verma heard their parents, both medical professionals in Florida, describe the barriers that their older patients were experiencing with virtual appointments.

Arjun and Hannah Verma soon connected with Agarwal, who learned of VA telehealth during an internship with her local U.S. representative’s office. A lot of her classmates were interested, too.

Have donated 700 devices to VA facilities

Their solution was to create a nonprofit called Telehealth Access for Seniors. Formed in March, the organization relies on donations of gently used iPhones, iPads, and other electronic devices to hospitals and VA facilities to provide older adults and Veterans with access to telehealth services. The organization restores all used devices to their factory settings so no personal information remains on any device.

In its first half-year, the organization has expanded its support network to more than 300 volunteers. To date, the organization has donated more than 2,500 devices, including more than 700 devices donated to VA facilities across the country. This summer, the organization secured $20,000 from Goldman Sachs to buy iPads to donate to VA facilities.

The co-founders have found all the positive response from VA facilities encouraging, fielding requests from facilities asking for donations.

Arjun and Hannah have expanded their efforts beyond telehealth. They’re also helping provide equipment to Veterans to reduce loneliness and isolation through The Compassionate Contact Corps. The Compassionate Contact Corps is a new Voluntary Service program.

Donated devices let Veterans continue treatment

The VA Hartford Vet Center in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, has received donations from Telehealth Access for Seniors. Director Nilsa Rivera said, “The donated devices provide the technology needed for Veterans to remain engaged in treatment services. They also help Veterans maintain their connection with their support system during this time when face-to-face services are limited.”

VA also has an iPad distribution program, providing 4G-connected iPads to Veterans who do not have the technology or internet connectivity for telehealth visits. Funding through the CARES Act for the program has provided 53,866 Veterans with iPads since the start of the pandemic. It has distributed more than 67,200 iPads since the program started in 2017.

For more information on VA telehealth programs and technologies, visit the Office of Connected Care website. If you would like to contribute to VA’s efforts to expand access to care or keep Veterans socially connected, consider donating or volunteer.

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This story is courtesy Connected Care Communications.

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Published on Nov. 5, 2020

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

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One Comment

  1. Timothy Ard November 5, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    While good they thought of doing this. We need to address the much greater concern of not having Personal Computers for these veterans to keep a personal copy of their Electronic Health Records at the Veterans Residence. The Computers would also be able to perform the Telehealth and Virtual appointments to a much better result. There also should be people looking into providing these Veterans with high quality internet connections, not just another way to connect to someone else’s internet connections as you do with all Cellular connections and free Wi-Fi connections.

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