President Donald Trump speaks during a Department of Veterans Affairs announcement of a new program using video and software technology to provide medical care to veterans. Listening is Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 3 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday praised new tools allowing veterans mobile access to their doctors as a "historic breakthrough."
Trump and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced an expansion of telehealth services for veterans, including a new mobile app allowing patients to make and change appointments.
Shulkin said that in 2016, 700,000 veterans used telehealth services through the VA, but Thursday's announcement "dramatically expands our current capabilities." The VA, working with the Office of American Innovation and the Department of Justice, issued a regulation allowing veterans to receive services from VA providers anywhere in the country. He called it "anywhere to anywhere" VA healthcare.
Shulkin said the technology would be helpful particularly in rural areas.
"That means we're going to be able to use VA providers in cities where there are a lot of doctors, and be able to use those doctors to help our veterans in rural areas where there aren't many healthcare professionals. And you talked about mental health and suicide prevention; this is one of those areas that we can really use that expertise," he said.
"This will significantly expand access to care for our veterans, especially for those who need help in the area of mental health, which is a bigger and bigger request -- and also in suicide prevention," he said.
Trump made improving healthcare for veterans a central tenet of his election campaign last year. Earlier this summer, he signed a bill into law to protect Veterans Affairs whistle-blowers and boost the department's ability to dismiss disruptive employees.
After the event, later Thursday, Trump was scheduled travel to West Virginia for a campaign-style rally in Huntington -- where it's expected he will discuss ongoing efforts to make the United States "energy dominant."