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For veterans in rural areas, healthcare can be a battle

McClatchy Newspapers, June 8, 2011

Long distances and restrictive rules have become obstacles to healthcare for many of the more than 3 million rural veterans enrolled in the VA health system. They account for 41% of enrollees. But the agency's effort to aid rural veterans has other problems as well. An April internal VA audit found that it couldn't determine whether a lot of the money spent on rural health care in recent years care did any good. The VA Office of Inspector General, the agency's internal watchdog, concluded that the VA "lacked reasonable assurance" that its use of $273 million of the $533 million in rural health funding it received in 2009 and 2010 had "improved access and quality of care" for veterans. The report noted that the VA Office of Rural Health did an inadequate job of assessing the healthcare needs of rural veterans and managing the money for expanding care. In addition, oversight of rural healthcare programs was ineffective, and communication with other agencies and services involved in rural care was poor, it said.