Veterans News

Serving Veterans in Rural Communities

For Elks in rural areas, identifying and connecting with veterans can be a challenge. Before starting a project, learn more about the obstacles and conditions that veterans in the community face.

VA reports show that almost a quarter of United States veterans live in rural communities where there are higher levels of poverty, more elderly residents, and fewer healthcare resources. More than half of rural veterans are over the age of 65 and have at least one service-connected condition.

While these veterans may be farther away from VA resources, they are enrolled in the VA healthcare system at higher rates than veterans living in urban communities. Transportation is a major challenge for these veterans who must travel to receive services.

Watch VA's Office of Rural Health describe how they're meeting the needs of rural veterans.

Veterans in rural communities who experience housing insecurity may not be
homeless. Instead, their
homes may be in poor or dangerous condition, or they may be staying temporarily
at a series of places with
friends and family. These veterans can have difficulty accessing housing assistance that is available for veterans living outdoors or in shelters.

Often, information about serving veterans is focused on those living in urban settings. Identifying veterans in rural areas is not easy when there are not as many organized resources or settings for veterans to seek assistance.

How can Elks identify veterans in need in rural areas? In addition to VA clinics or hospitals, you may be able to identify veterans through other community groups you’re a part of like churches, schools, or local nonprofit organizations. Focus your outreach efforts on both public places (like post offices, libraries, town halls), and private businesses (grocery stores, laundromats). Clearly communicate the type of service or resource you’re offering to reach veterans who will benefit most.

Here are a few ways to get started serving veterans in rural areas:

  • Create long term support through networking with other organizations for job and housing searches.
  • Use ENVSC’s Welcome Home Kit reimbursement program to support veterans who are exiting homelessness.
  • Volunteer to drive veterans to a hospital, clinic, or shopping center on a regular basis. One way to do this is by working with the DAV.
  • Distribute gas cards or other transportation assistance to veterans in need.
  • Provide tech support by providing phone charging stations at local clinics. If you’re internet savvy, offer your assistance with setting up computers and logging in for veterans to access healthcare providers remotely.
  • Find local Veterans Service Officers to build partnerships and refer veterans.

Want to learn more about ways to support veterans in rural communities?

VA's Office of Rural Health provides more information about the issues rural veterans face.

Read results from a Supportive Services for Veteran Families survey.

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