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Physical and Mental Health and Access to Care Among Nonmetropolitan Veterans Health Administration Patients Younger Than 65 Years

Authors

  • Alan West PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Veterans’ Rural Health Initiative, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt.
      For further information, contact: Alan West, PhD, Center for Rural Health Studies (11Q), VA Medical Center, White River Junction, VT 05009; e-mail alan.west@med.va.gov.
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  • William B. Weeks MD, MBA

    1. Veterans’ Rural Health Initiative, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt.
    2. Department of Community & Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH.
    3. Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH.
    4. National Center for Patient Safety, Field Office, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt.
    5. VA National Quality Scholars Fellowship Program, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt.
    6. VA Outcomes Group, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt.
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  • This research was supported by the Veterans’ Rural Health Initiative and by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development Service (project REA 03-098). Dr Weeks is the principal investigator at the WRJ, VT VAMC. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or of the United States government.

For further information, contact: Alan West, PhD, Center for Rural Health Studies (11Q), VA Medical Center, White River Junction, VT 05009; e-mail alan.west@med.va.gov.

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Context: The 4.5 million military veterans treated by the Veterans Health Administration (VA) are believed to experience poorer physical and mental health than nonveterans. Furthermore, nonmetropolitan residents have less access to medical services, whether or not they are veterans in VA care. A direct comparison of metropolitan and nonmetropolitan veterans and nonveterans on a national health survey has not been reported, so it is not known whether nonmetropolitan VA patients experience similar medical need or access as other nonmetropolitan residents. Purpose: We sought to compare the perceptions of health status and access to care among metropolitan and nonmetropolitan veterans in VA care, other veterans, and nonveterans in a large national sample surveyed under the same conditions. Methods: Male respondents to the 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System health survey were divided into veterans or nonveterans, VA users or nonusers, metropolitan or nonmetropolitan residents, and 1 of 3 age groups (18-44, 45-64, and 65+). Responses to questions about current health status, health coverage, and access to care were submitted to chi-square analyses or analyses of variance, using SUDAAN software to compute survey error variance. Findings: Nonmetropolitan VA patients younger than 65 years consistently reported the worst physical and mental health status and reduced access to care. Conclusions: VA can anticipate increasing demand for mental and physical health care among rural veterans younger than 65 years.

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