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Reaching Out to Three Million Rural Veterans

man standing in a green field of crops

About 31 percent of the Veterans enrolled in VA Health Care who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are rural.

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, August 19, 2013

VA has a Unique Office Improving their Access to Care

We know that Veterans make their homes everywhere, and that many prefer wide open spaces to urbanized places. That’s why VA has the Office of Rural Health (ORH).

The mission of ORH is to improve access and quality of care for enrolled rural and highly rural Veterans, by developing evidence-based policies and innovative practices to support the unique needs of Veterans residing in geographically remote areas.

 Our sole mission is to serve rural Veterans. 

36 Percent of VA’s Enrolled Vets are Rural

About 3.1 million Veterans (36 percent of the total) enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System are considered “rural” by the U.S. Census definition. These Veterans make up a disproportionate share of service members and comprise about 31 percent of the enrolled Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are returning to their rural communities.

Individuals living in rural areas face unique barriers when they try to access health care. These barriers may include long travel times to clinics and hospitals; lack of public transportation; limited access to health care specialists and an inadequate supply of primary care providers practicing in rural areas.

ORH is addressing all of these challenges through a multi-pronged approach including initiatives to improve rural provider training and education and increase the rural VA provider workforce, implement innovative models of home health care to reduce the need for travel, and increase access to specialty care through telehealth technologies.

Future of Rural Health Care in VA

Gina L. Capra, MPA, Director of the Office of Rural Health, says, “I am very excited about ORH’s robust agenda for the future. We are committed to ensuring that the health care needs of rural Veterans are met through a combination of innovative health care delivery models, new outreach and public health initiatives, rural health care workforce development, and increased collaborations and partnerships with local community entities.”

Capra notes, “We currently have over 380 projects throughout the United States designed to increase access rural Veterans access to care. We estimate we will have the same number in the upcoming year. Our sole mission is to serve rural Veterans. That is at the heart of everything we do.” Read all the information about the Office of Rural Health.