WASHINGTON—VHA is changing the method it uses to define urban, rural and highly rural land areas so that it can better identify and serve rural veterans, the agency has announced.
“VHA strives to provide high-quality, accessible health care to all enrolled veterans,” Interim Under Secretary for Health Dr. Carolyn Clancy said in a written statement. “However, we must know where rural veterans live in order to provide adequate access to care. This requires the best possible definition of ‘rural’ land areas. With this change, VHA will be able to better serve this important veteran population.”
The current method will be replaced by the Rural-Urban Commuting Areas system, VA said. The agency explained that RUCA was developed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services and is popular with federal agencies.
“The RUCA system takes into account population density and considers how closely a community is socio-economically linked to larger urban centers,” the agency explains on its website.
The agency anticipated that implementation of the system will begin before October 1, 2014.
According to VA, currently, 3.2 million rural veterans are enrolled in the VA system, which represents 36% of the total enrolled veteran population.