Rural Veterans - MIRECC / CoE
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Rural Veterans

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The following information is adapted from the Office of Rural Health - Rural Veteran Facts

Rural Veteran Health Care Challenges

Almost a quarter of all Veterans in the United States, 4.7 million, return from active military careers to reside in rural communities. Veterans choose rural communities for a variety of reasons: closer proximity to family, friends and community; open space for recreation; more privacy; lower cost of living; or less crowded towns and schools. While Veterans may enjoy the benefits of rural living, they may also experience rural health care challenges that are intensified by combat-related injuries and illnesses.

Research at the Veterans Affairs' Northwest Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center

In rural areas, basic levels of health care or preventative care may not be available to support residents’ long-term health and well-being.

Compared to urban areas, rural communities tend to:

  • Have higher poverty rates
  • Have more elderly residents
  • Have residents with poorer health
  • Have fewer physician practices, hospitals and other health delivery resources

Just like any rural resident, it may be difficult for rural Veterans and their caregivers to access health care and other services due to rural delivery challenges, including:

  • Hospital closings due to financial instability
  • Fewer housing, education, employment and transportation options
  • Greater geographic and distance barriers
  • Limited broadband internet
  • Higher uninsured rates
  • Difficulty of safely aging in place in rural America

VA recognizes the need to provide accessible care to rural Veterans and allocates 32 percent of its health care budget to rural Veteran care.

When looking at a health disparity, it is also important to recognize and build off community strengths. In Alaska, in the late 90’s began the People Awakening Project to identify pathways to sobriety. After this study, certain villages facing suicide epidemics saw that they too help many of these protective factors in their culture and community—worked with researchers to build prevention programs focused on promoting and building protective processes among their youth that were grounded in culture and present in the community.

Last Updated 17 September 2021