Foundation for Rural Service Launches ‘Virtual Living Room®' to Help Vermont Veterans Access Telehealth Services

 

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Carolyn Just, 703-351-2015, cjust@ntca.org 

Bristol, Vt. (February 10, 2020)—The Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) today announced the opening of its latest “Virtual Living Room®,” a space where veterans can use the robust broadband connections provided by local telecommunications providers to access VA telehealth services. CoBank, one of the largest private providers of credit to the U.S. rural economy, is the grant program’s exclusive sponsor.

Thanks to an innovative partnership between FRS, CoBank, the White River Junction VA Healthcare System, American Legion Post 19, and Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, veteran patients will be able to use the Virtual Living Room®, a comfortable, private space housed within the American Legion facility in Bristol, Vt., to participate in telehealth appointments with their VA healthcare provider. Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) provided the Virtual Living Room® with a high-speed Internet connection capable of serving up to one gigabit per second, the speed necessary to do things like stream video content. WCVT is a member of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, the premier association representing nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America.

Virtual Living Rooms® can be installed at local libraries, churches, community centers or other locations unique to each rural area. Communities that are located more than an hour away from a VA clinic or hospital, and within the service territory of an NTCA member, are encouraged to apply for these $5,000 grants to support the creation of a Virtual Living Room®.

“The Foundation for Rural Service is so pleased to be able to offer veterans in Vermont another option when it comes to their health care,” said FRS Executive Director Pam Becker. “Getting access to health care providers can be a challenge in rural communities, and the challenge is even greater for our country’s veterans, as the nearest VA facility is often several hours away. The Virtual Living Room® provides a viable second option for rural Veterans by making telehealth care available in a comfortable, private setting for free. We could not be more thrilled to bring this opportunity to veterans in and around Bristol.”

According to Eric Haskin, President/CEO of WCVT, “We are very proud to be working with our community partners to support our local Veterans here in Vermont. I served in the United States Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) and understand firsthand the challenges our veterans face. This is one way we can give back to our local communities and support our veterans by leveraging our gigabit fiber-optic network to help expand access to the VA’s ever-expanding telehealth initiatives.”

“CoBank is extremely proud to be part of this innovative effort to improve healthcare access for rural veterans,” said Thomas Halverson, CoBank’s chief executive officer. “Telemedicine programs have shown true potential to improve health outcomes for rural residents, and we applaud the commitment of the Foundation for Rural Service, the VA, and NTCA to put this technology to work for the benefit of our nation’s veterans.”

“This is a great example of how crucial community partnerships are in meeting the needs of veterans in our rural communities,” said Brett Rusch MD, executive director of the White River Junction VA Healthcare System. “The Virtual Living Room® will be a welcome and vital resource for our veterans struggling to access care from more remote communities. We are so pleased with this collaboration and greatly appreciate the invaluable contributions by our community partners in this effort.”

For more information about the FRS Virtual Living Room® Grant Program, or for guidance on how to apply, visit www.FRS.org or contact foundation@frs.org. 

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About the Foundation for Rural Service 

The Foundation for Rural Service (FRS), the philanthropic arm of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and its members, seeks to sustain and enhance the quality of life in America by advancing an understanding of rural issues. Through scholarships, grants, and a variety of educational programs, FRS focuses on educating rural youth, encouraging community development and introducing policymakers to challenges unique to rural communities. Visit us at www.frs.org.

About WCVT

Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom is a local, family owned and operated independent telecommunications company serving over 16,000 customers in the Mad River and central Champlain Valley regions of Vermont.  The company was incorporated on November 30, 1904, and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004.Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom provides local and long distance telephone service, and high-speed Internet access through its Green Mountain Access subsidiary. On the web at www.wcvt.com

About CoBank

CoBank is a $136 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 70,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

About NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. In an era of transformative technological advancements, regulatory challenges and marketplace competition, NTCA members are leading the technological evolution for rural consumers, delivering robust and high-quality services over future-proof networks that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development, e-commerce, health care, agriculture and education, and it contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy each year. Visit us at www.ntca.org.