Senator Has Repeatedly Called on FCC and VA to Work Together to Ensure Veterans’ Access to Lifeline Program
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and member of the Senate Commerce Committee, released the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its draft order to modernize the Lifeline program, encourage competition among Lifeline providers, and ensure low-income consumers have Internet access at modern speeds. The proposal is expected to be voted on by the FCC on March 31, 2016.
“Today’s draft order takes critical steps to ensure veterans have access to the essential services provided by the Lifeline program,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The discounts provided through Lifeline make it easier for veterans to contact the VA for benefits and medical appointments, to contact potential employers, and to find housing. In times of most need, an affordable telephone service also makes it easier for veterans to reach the Veterans Crisis Line and the Help for Homeless Veterans hotline.
“It is vital that Lifeline assistance be extended to broadband services, as well, providing all low-income consumers with access to the economy of the 21st century. I urge the FCC to approve this order, moving us nearer to closing the digital divide that marginalizes too many vulnerable populations, but even after this critical step, much more work remains. Future outreach must include veterans and military service organizations as well as housing providers to bolster awareness of the program, its benefits, and enrollment opportunities.”
In an August 2015 letter to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Blumenthal noted that “both broadband and telecommunications technologies are pivotal to conduct daily activities, pursue job and housing opportunities and stay in touch with family members,” and urged the two departments to create a coordinated enrollment systems so all veterans participating in VA programs based on qualifying income levels are automatically eligible for the Lifeline discount.