The Office of Rural Health has been considering the effects of Internet usage amongst Veterans residing in rural areas. A recent study has proven that the department needs to find more avenues for VA internet outreach for rural veterans. Many veterans are not receiving care due to the cost and distance of travel to their closest VA.
Research has shown that cost and distance is causing many veterans to self diagnosis and self medicate with over-the-counter and illegal drugs. The recent study targeted veterans in different age brackets that lived in rural areas. The study focused on those using the Internet to look for possible treatment methods instead of going to their VA. Some Veterans were found to only live 15 minutes away and others over 30 minutes away. Ironically, the study did not look at those forced to travel nearly an hour and a half or further to their closet VA.
The study found that veterans younger in age were the most inclined to search on the Internet. No surprise there. But it was the 65 and plus bracket that stood out. This number has increased and now 30% of veterans 65 years or older in rural areas are looking to the Internet for help. Their search not only consisted of overall information regarding VA benefits but also mental and physical disabilities, with treatment for physical conditions being the most prominently searched.
Furthermore, the travel and cost is jeopardizing the benefits and care of service connected disabilities. The number of Veterans not continuing treatment or cancelling compensation and pension exams for service connected disabilities is rising. The Audit of VA Incomplete Compensation and Pension Medical Examinations looks at the number and reason of cancelled compensation and pension exams each year. Unfortunately, many veterans are not aware or do not qualify for beneficiary travel pay to assist with the expenses of traveling to the VA for exams, continual treatment or preventive care.
This study was specifically used to highlight the number of veterans turning to the Internet where the travel cost and distance is too high to go to the VA for treatment. This study did serve its purpose and as a result of this study and others like it, the VA’s Office of Rural Health is looking into other methods to reach those far away from the local VA communities. They have developed possible ideas of more assistance through the internet, video conferencing to discuss symptoms and provide care, and mobile care units, as methods for outreach.
If you are a rural veteran who needs assistance with a VA benefits claim, we are here to help. Call Bosley & Bratch at (800) 953-6224 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form