The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided $215 million to improve access and quality of healthcare for veterans in rural areas. The funding will be used to support the latest technologies, to recruit and retain a well educated and trained healthcare workforce, and to collaborate with non-VA rural health community partners.
According to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, the funds will enable the VA to establish new outpatient clinics, expand collaborations with federal and community partners, accelerate the use of telemedicine deployment, explore innovative uses of technology, and fund pilot programs.
The VISNs, VA regional healthcare networks, and VHA program offices were allowed to submit up to eight proposed projects each for funding. The proposals were prioritized and then sent to the Office of Rural Health where they were evaluated based on methodology, feasibility, and the intended impact on rural veterans. ORH then selected 74 programs where many of the programs were either national in scope or affected multiple states.
To address the issues facing rural veterans, the VA created the Office of Rural Health in 2007. In the past two years, the VA formed a 16 member national committee to advise on issues affecting rural veterans, opened three Veterans Rural Health Resource Centers to study rural veteran issues, rolled out four new mobile health clinics to serve 24 predominately rural counties, and announced that 10 new rural outreach clinics are scheduled to be opened in 2009.