VA’s telehealth care for rural Veterans with PTSD


VA is conducting a pilot telehealth program that will give rural Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) remote access to psychotherapy and related services.  The project is part of the focus on improving availability of mental health care for Veterans living in rural areas.

VA’s Office of Rural Health, in partnership with VA’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative, is supporting the Telemedicine Outreach for PTSD program to deliver therapy and other care through phone and interactive video contact.

VA researchers have worked diligently in recent years to establish the safety and efficacy of PTSD psychotherapy delivered remotely, ensuring Veterans will get the same quality of PTSD care as if they were in a doctor’s office at a VA medical center. This program will help greater numbers of Veterans living in rural areas and will save them time and effort to get to a VA facility that is far from their homes.

Dr. John Fortney, a research health scientist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle is leading the project.

“Long travel distances to urban areas can be a major barrier to care for rural Veterans,” Fortney said. “In a prior trial, we were able to use telehealth technologies successfully to engage Veterans in evidence-based, trauma-focused therapy without their having to travel to a distant VA medical center.”

To date, more than 680 rural Veterans who are not receiving specialty PTSD care have enrolled in the study. The participants may choose between the two main forms of evidence-based, trauma-focused psychotherapy used in VA: cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.

Veterans participating in the program receive frequent phone calls from a care manager who helps them access services provided by off-site psychiatrists and psychologists. The psychotherapy is delivered via interactive video from a VA medical center to a community-based outpatient clinic or to the Veteran’s home. The telephone care manager also monitors the Veterans’ progress and helps them overcome barriers to care.

The program includes 12 clinics across the nation in Charleston, South Carolina; Iowa City, Iowa; Little Rock, Arkansas; Denver; Colorado; San Diego, California and Seattle, Washington. The results, which will be available in 2020, will lay the groundwork for national implementation of the  program.

To learn more about VA research on PTSD, visit


Hans Petersen

Hans Petersen is senior writer-editor for Digital Media, VHA Office of Communications. An Air Force Veteran, Hans also served two years in the Peace Corps and worked for 20 years in broadcasting before joining VA.


  1. Jeanette Peterson    

    How does a vet with PTSD sign up for this? My boyfriend is a disabled vet with PTSD & TBI & needs some help. He’s been self medicating which is not helping at all.

  2. Robert Primeaux    

    I have a 100% disability for PTSD, how can this help us American Indian Veterans who live in rural areas on Indian Reservations. We cannot afford a phone let alone a computer, it’s 600 miles round trip to a VA hospital.

  3. frederick maier jr    

    have all the signs of ptsd get ing no helpfrom primarycar docter

  4. Roderick D Bowles    

    Ok, why is New Hampshire not included? This state does not have a hospital facility and continues to be ignored by VA programs because of it’s unique profile!

    Rod Bowles, Vietnam Veteran (in country)

  5. Remote Wipe    

    This is a great idea and I hope it can help those suffering with PTSD. For these telehealth solutions are physicians required to use some sort of data breach protection solution like (redacted) or are the veterans offered something to protect their smartphones? It seems that we need to consider some HIPAA protections for people that are using this technology.

    1. Shawn E Gross    

      @Emily s Warfle I agree, I have had issues working with people in rural areas not having 1. a good signal for their phone 2. access to WI-FI and a less frequent issue 3. a comprehensive understanding of the platforms on in which we could use to have face to face sessions. I thought about writing a grant to 1. pay for internet services for them 2. provide the hardware and 3. any possible learning. But your point is viable. I have crossed these issues.

  6. Emily s Warfle    

    Do most veterans living in rural areas have the required equipment for telehealth? What if someone does not have a phone, computer, or wifi that has the capability for telehealth?

  7. antonio rivas    

    I Sgt Antonio Rivas feel that I for the past few years have been provided the proper care from my primary care Doctor or my Phy Doctor to date most of us including myself are having to get our health care through our own private Doctors etcetera the VA Doctor at the Northeast central out patient center my new primary Doctor that has been assigned to my care could careless about my health problems she is really laid Antonio Rivas.

    1. Tom Shapolry    

      Which is it Sgt? You are getting good care or not? Please use proper grammar and post something that makes sense

  8. Lemire, Jan    

    What about Alaska? And Prince Of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska – from what I understand, there are more Veterans on Prince Of Wales Island than any where else in the State.

    Community Connections is now involved in helping Veterans.


    how do you possibly help us when your not inside our heads. you don’t see out our eyes and how we view our world.what we seen and witnessed and even many issues we block out or try to.tell me how do you help us without becoming us?

  10. Francis Faulkner    

    Will this apply to PTSD veterans in the Philippines and other overseas locations?

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