The Office of Rural Health (ORH) implements enterprise-wide initiatives that help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans by increasing their access to care and services. These national programs stem from the Office's model to "study, innovate, and spread" new innovations to support the 3 million rural Veterans who are enrolled in and rely on the U.S. Department Veterans Affairs' (VA) health care system.
Historically, ORH provided three years of seed funding for local VA pilot programs implemented at VA medical centers and Community Based Outpatient Clinics. Building on the knowledge collected from more than 1,700 small local programs and applying lessons learned, the Office transitioned in 2016 to establish programs that deliver increased care and support to rural Veterans nationwide in a more uniform manner. These programs fall into two categories:
- Enterprise-Wide Initiatives - Enterprise-Wide Initiatives expand national VA program offices’ access to health care efforts to sites that serve rural Veterans.
- Rural Promising Practices: ORH Rural Promising Practices are field-tested innovative projects that meet ORH criteria demonstrating improved access to care for rural Veterans.
To fulfill its vision that America's Veterans thrive in rural communities, ORH created the cross-agency 2015-2019 Rural Veteran Strategic Plan.
Congress passed legislation (38 U.S. Code § 7308) in 2006 that established the Office of Rural Health. Appointed by the Under Secretary for Health, the Director leads ORH to address rural Veteran's health care challenges through targeted research, programs and new models of care.
- In cooperation with the medical, rehabilitation, health services and cooperative studies research programs in the Office of Policy and the Office of Research and Development of the Veterans Health Administration, to assist the Under Secretary for Health in conducting, coordinating, promoting and disseminating research into issues affecting veterans living in rural areas.
- To work with all personnel and offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop, refine and promulgate policies, best practices, lessons learned, and innovative and successful programs to improve care and services for veterans who reside in rural areas of the United States.
- To designate in each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) an individual who shall consult on and coordinate the discharge in such Network of programs and activities of the Office for veterans who reside in rural areas of the United States.
- To perform such other functions and duties as the Secretary or the Under Secretary for Health considers appropriate.
Congress reinforced the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 with provisions for community grants to assist rural Veterans that ORH executes.