MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Representative Joe Cunningham on Wednesday introduced the VA Expanded Care Hours (ECHO) Act, along with Republican Representative Jim Banks of Indiana. The bipartisan legislation aims to provide veterans with more access to care.

If approved, “the VA ECHO Act would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to study the attitudes of eligible veterans toward the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offering appointments outside the usual operating hours.”

Findings on the “feasibility and feasibility of expanding care” would be shared and considered moving forward.

One way that the Act suggests hours be expanded is through the use of telehealth appointments, which have been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The VA reports that “the number of veterans using virtual healthcare spiked by 800% in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, with 11 million virtual prescription requests already fulfilled and 1.1 million mental telehealth appointments completed.”

Cunningham believes that “inflexible care hours at the VA” is one of the greatest obstacles to veterans receiving the care that they need.

He went on to say that “we must do everything we can to support our nation’s heroes and prevent veteran suicide. Ensuring our veterans are able to readily access the best possible service in a way that’s convenient for them is a strong start.”

The data gathered by the proposed legislation would provide insight on how to best remedy the problem.