The projects were selected through a competitive process. The 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs), VA’s regional health care networks, and Veterans Health Administration Program Offices were each allowed to submit up to eight proposed projects.
Seventy-four programs were selected, based on methodology, feasibility, and intended impact on rural veterans. Many of these projects are either national in scope or affected multiple states and reflect the VA’s ambitious effort to improve access and quality of both physical and mental health care for veterans in geographically rural areas.
Access to quality health care is a challenge for all residents of America’s rural areas and VA has taken a proactive approach by creating an Office of Rural Health (ORH) in February 2007 to address the unique issues facing veterans who live far from the system’s medical centers. Since ORH’s inception, VA has 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 10 new rural outreach clinics to be opened this year.
Veterans groups and other advocates are very excited about the new projects, some of which sources tell us employ cutting edge technology to bring care right into the veterans’ home and connect health care providers to specialists across the nation. Many of the selected projects also embrace collaboration with private and public sector partners—something that is unfortunately atypical in federal government.
VA sources are also quick to assert that this funding is not a case of simply throwing money at a problem and that no one should expect their project to receive continued funding if it doesn’t work. They promise to expand those that prove to be effective and end any that cannot produce results.