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Rural Native Veterans in the Veterans Health Administration: Characteristics and Service Utilization Patterns

Authors

  • Carol E. Kaufman PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Western Region, Office of Rural Health, Veterans Health Administration, Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Centers for American Indian and Alaskan Native Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
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  • Elizabeth Brooks PhD,

    1. Centers for American Indian and Alaskan Native Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
    2. Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Western Region, Office of Rural Health, Veterans Health Administration, Salt Lake City, Utah
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  • L. Jeanne Kaufmann MA,

    1. Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Western Region, Office of Rural Health, Veterans Health Administration, Salt Lake City, Utah
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  • Timothy Noe PhD,

    1. Centers for American Indian and Alaskan Native Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
    2. Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Western Region, Office of Rural Health, Veterans Health Administration, Salt Lake City, Utah
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  • Herbert T. Nagamoto MD,

    1. Mental Health Service, VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, Denver, Colorado
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
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  • Nancy Dailey MSN, RN-BC,

    1. Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Western Region, Office of Rural Health, Veterans Health Administration, Salt Lake City, Utah
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  • Byron Bair MD,

    1. Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Western Region, Office of Rural Health, Veterans Health Administration, Salt Lake City, Utah
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  • Jay Shore MD

    1. Centers for American Indian and Alaskan Native Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
    2. Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Western Region, Office of Rural Health, Veterans Health Administration, Salt Lake City, Utah
    3. Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
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  • Funding: This research was funded by the Veterans Rural Health Resource Center—Western Region, Salt Lake City, Utah—Field Office for the Office of Rural Health. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This manuscript was reviewed by the Office of Rural Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, prior to submission.

For further information, contact: Carol E. Kaufman, PhD, Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health; Mail Stop F800; 13055 E. 17th Avenue, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO 80045; e-mail: carol.kaufman@ucdenver.edu.

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Methods

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.

Findings

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.

Conclusions

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.

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