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Office of Rural Health


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Office of Rural Health Programs

The Office of Rural Health (ORH) is working to see that America’s Veterans thrive in rural communities by establishing and expanding national programs, as well as cultivating partnerships at the federal, state and local level. These programs enable VA to rapidly address systemic health care and access challenges experienced by Veterans in rural communities. ORH establishes and expands two types of programs: Enterprise-Wide Initiatives (EWI) and Rural Promising Practices. EWIs expand national program office access efforts to sites serving rural Veterans. Rural Promising Practices are field tested innovative projects that meet ORH’s established criteria demonstrating improved access to care for rural Veterans.

Examples of ORH's Enterprise-Wide Initiatives and Rural Promising Practices include:

  • Tele-Intensive Care Units
  • Telemental Health Hubs
  • Social workers added into Rural Patient Aligned Care Team
  • Rural Transportation Service
  • Rural Health Training and Education Initiative that provides rural health care delivery experience to health professions trainees (pre- and post-graduation
  • Remote, telephone-based delivery of cardiac rehabilitation

Special Populations

ORH also supports programs that address the health care needs of unique populations of rural Veterans.

American Indian/Alaska Native Programs:
ORH works with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the VA Office of Tribal Government Relations (OTGR) to provide oversight and management of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)/IHS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which facilitates programs to ensure increased access to care and services for AI/AN Veterans. VA/IHS collaboration achieved success in extending telehealth services from VHA to IHS facilities, increasing VA providers' cultural awareness and expanding electronic Health Information Exchange for Native Veteran care coordination.

Hawaii/Pacific Islands Programs:
ORH funded initiatives in the State of Hawaii and surrounding Pacific Islands. These projects delivered caregiver support, air travel, pharmacy services, telehealth, mental health, specialty care and primary care to Veterans. Air travel helps Veterans access their medical appointments on neighboring islands when they live on other Pacific Islands, including Guam and American Samoa. Telehealth projects allow Veterans to access care from their homes or local clinics.

Women Veterans Programs:
ORH projects focus on increasing access to health care for rural women Veterans. These projects include efforts to increase telehealth, maternity care, obstetrics and gynecology, and mental health care services for women Veterans

Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot:
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot (RVCP) grant program supports Veterans and their families who reside in rural and underserved areas of the country. ORH is responsible for providing oversight, guidance and evaluation of the two-year pilot program.

RVCP was created in accordance with Section 506, Public Law 111-163, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. This pilot enables each grant recipient to support local Veterans in unique ways suited to the challenges in these locations. Additionally, an evaluation component will help determine best practices in successfully coordinating multi-sector benefits for Veterans and their families who reside in rural or underserved communities. Grantees are:

Grantees are responsible for day-to-day management and reporting on the services they provide and the number of Veterans they serve. They use the funds to aid Veterans with the transition to civilian life in one or more of the following areas: coordination of health care and benefits; availability of high-quality medical services; family assistance; and outreach.

Results from the first year of RVCP include:

Year One (Fiscal Year 2015)

  • Completed intake assessments for more than 700 Veterans and 150 family members
  • Established more than 500 new partnerships (partnership networks included nearly 80 medical and 60 mental health benefit-providing organizations)
  • Conducted more than 150 outreach events (e.g., state fairs, job fair partnerships, sponsored concert partnerships), which reached more than 11,000 Veterans and nearly 6,000 family members
  • Provided more than 600 referrals to Veterans and family members across all sites (of which, more than 90 percent were for Veterans, and the remaining for primary and secondary family members)
  • Established nearly 50 service sites within communities located in Arkansas, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Louisiana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington

Year Two (Fiscal Year 2016)

  • Completed intake assessments for more than 2,600 Veterans and 460 family members
  • Established more than 1,000 new partnerships that enabled service providers to coordinate services upon requests for assistance (partnership networks included 170 medical and 95 mental health benefit providing organizations)
  • Conducted more than 1,000 outreach events (e.g., state fairs, job fair partnerships, sponsored concert partnerships), which reached almost 25,000 Veterans and nearly 10,000 family members
  • Provided more than 2,700 referrals to Veterans and family across all sites (of which more than 94 percent were for Veterans and the remaining for primary and secondary family members)

ORH partners with the Office of Academic Affiliations and local VA medical centers to provide training to rural health care providers, as well as students and trainees. There are also many free online courses available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that provide educational credits.