• Native American;
  • rural;
  • utilization of health services;
  • veterans



The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) signed a Memo of Understanding in 2010 to strengthen their partnership in improving health care services for Native veterans, who are disproportionately rural. This paper describes the demographic and service use profile of rural Native veterans who access VA health care.


Data were abstracted from the 2008 Veteran Health Administration (VHA) medical dataset, and the characteristics of rural Native veterans were compared to rural non-Native veterans.


Rural Native veterans were more rural (41% vs 35%) and more highly rural (8% vs 2%) compared to non-Native veterans. Rural Native veterans were younger, more likely to be female, and earned about the same median income compared to rural non-Native veterans. Although rural Native veterans had fewer diagnoses on average, they were more likely to have served in combat areas and to have higher levels of service-connected disability compared to other rural veterans.


Demographic and service-related characteristics of rural Native veterans who accessed VA care differ from those of rural non-Native veterans. Identifying specific health care and service use characteristics will assist in the development of appropriate policy and programs to serve rural Native veterans.