Eligible Veterans can now receive free Portal from Facebook video calling devices thanks to a partnership with Facebook and the American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network.
The devices help Veterans connect with their Caregivers, families and friends to reduce isolation and improve social connectivity.
Facebook donated over 7,400 Portal video calling devices for Veterans and their Caregiver or family member. Veterans and families in VA’s Office of Caregiver Support program, VA’s Geriatric Services and Extended Care program, or individuals identified as at-risk for suicide by a VA provider are eligible to receive Portals through this program.
“Veterans, families and caregivers will benefit through an increased support system,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Our goal is for Veterans to feel less isolated through more communication. We believe this technology will help Veterans who might otherwise be unreachable.”
The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, office initiated the partnership.
“As a proud supporter of the military and Veteran community, Facebook is committed to providing Veterans with meaningful ways to connect with the people they care about,” said Payton Iheme, Military and Veteran Policy Lead at Facebook. “We hope that by using these Portal video calling devices Veterans and their caregivers will be able to feel less isolated and more present with their friends and family no matter where they are.”
About the devices
Portal from Facebook is a home video communications device that makes it easier for people to connect with each other. The Portal video-calling devices have a Smart Camera that keeps up with the action so people can move and talk hands-free. If someone enters the room, the camera automatically widens to keep everyone in view. Portal’s Smart Sound enhances the voice of whoever is speaking while minimizing unwanted background noises.
Veterans and their caregivers can use Portal to makes video calls to their contacts on Messenger and WhatsApp. This allows them to easily video call with friends and family even if they don’t have Portal. WhatsApp calls are end-to-end encrypted. Messenger calls encrypt in-transit. Users can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap. They can also block the camera lens with the camera cover provided.
The devices also have Alexa built-in. This allows users to listen to music, set a timer, add items to a shopping list and more. When not on a call, Portal can display Facebook photos and videos. Users can also choose to upload photos through the Portal app.
The devices do not come with Internet service provided. Both the Veteran and the Caregiver or family member must have a 2.4GHz or 5GHz WIFI capability. This can include a cell phone with hotspot connectivity. Facebook will provide free help desk services and technical assistance for Veterans and their Caregiver or families. Users must have a Facebook or WhatsApp account to use the devices.
Getting a device
The American Red Cross Military Veterans Caregiver Network website will host the link to request a pair of free Portals by Facebook. The American Red Cross will store and ship the Portals on behalf of VA. Veterans, Caregivers and families can request the Portals through the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network athttps://www.redcross.org/get-help/military-families/services-for-veterans/military-veteran-caregiver-network/request-your-va-facebook-portal.html. Use Google Chrome for the best experience.
“The American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network is honored to play a role in the distribution of these Portals by Facebook in partnership with VA,” said Melissa Comeau, American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network. “This partnership is committed to meeting the needs of military and Veteran caregivers who are experiencing social isolation and is achieved through a shared appreciation for the use of technology to bring support.”
Once Veterans apply through the link, VA will validate that the Veterans are in one of the VA programs. Once the Red Cross receives confirmation of eligibility from VA, the portal shipping process starts. The process can take from four to six weeks.
Disclaimer: The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products or services on behalf of VA.