Caring for Homeless Veterans with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

By Mike Katz, Executive Vice President of T-Mobile for BusinessNovember 24, 2020
Mike Katz shares his appreciation for active duty military and veterans and how T-Mobile supports them all year round.

At T-Mobile, we stand ready to serve those who serve us and are proud to support our veterans. Personally, I grew up admiring a veteran in my immediate family — my grandfather who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Through our deep friendship and connection, I grew an appreciation and awe for veterans and their service to our country.

I am proud to be able to say T-Mobile truly values military service. One way we demonstrate that value is through a strong partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Over the years I have seen our relationship grow as we work closely to help veterans get or stay connected. Even now, as the VA National Homeless Program Office works with Minburn Technology Group and their subcontractor Iron Bow Technologies to help homeless and at-risk veterans stay safe and connected to healthcare resources, caregivers and their supports, we are proud to be a part of facilitating the deployment of wirelessly connected mobile devices.

After returning from combat in Afghanistan, Minburn Technology founder Tony Colangelo got to work providing complex hardware, software and service solutions to Federal, State and Fortune 500 organizations. Still active in the Army Reserves, Tony knows firsthand the importance of ensuring veterans have access to mental health resources and healthcare providers — and realized Minburn could help.

Today, Minburn Technology, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, is on a mission to provide critical communications for at-risk and homeless veterans. The company is working closely with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Homeless Program Office on an initiative funded by the CARES Act to distribute smartphones with T-Mobile service at no cost to veterans receiving homeless program services during the national COVID-19 pandemic. To further supplement these efforts, Minburn works alongside the VHA, which continues to have a significant impact on suicide prevention for veterans around the country according to the 2020 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report. The report recently found that suicide rates went down for veterans that used VHA services between 2017 and 2018.

While keeping veterans connected is core to the VA’s mission, the importance of telehealth cannot be understated. The VA recognized the need for telehealth and embraced it as part of its commitment to provide the best possible care to veterans as part of their Anywhere to Anywhere initiative, a program allowing VA health care teams to treat veterans regardless of where they live, including health care access across state lines. In December 2018, the VA and T-Mobile kicked off a partnership to provide free wireless service for the VA’s telehealth app, making healthcare more accessible to millions of veterans. With remote access to the VA Video Connect (VVC) application, veteran patients can connect with their VA medical provider via video conference services on multiple platforms. 

This year highlighted the critical role of telehealth and underscored the need for a connection people can depend on. Shortly after the start of the pandemic, the VA saw an 800% surge in telehealth visits and nearly 20,000 patients meeting with their VA healthcare teams daily. That upsurge has continued over the year and has now reached a more than 1,600% increase. T-Mobile is proud be a part of that connection with the VA and the team at Minburn Technology Group, as collectively our work helps veterans get the healthcare they deserve while bridging the digital divide.

Now, more than ever, people are feeling isolated and out of touch. The Un-carrier is proud to power the connectivity needed to combat loneliness and mental health challenges. We want all armed forces to know that WE ARE WITH YOU — all year ‘round, not just during November’s Veterans & Military Families Appreciation month! At T-Mobile, we are actively looking for ways to champion military members and their families in meaningful ways, whether it’s hiring commitments, career programs or the T-Mobile Magenta Military rate plan, you can learn more here.

This November, I am thankful for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and for those who have served and currently serve our country to make that possible.