Veterans in Rural America

Rural America

About 5 million veterans live in areas designated as rural by the U.S. Census Bureau. Understanding who rural veterans are and what sets them apart from other veterans, as well as from their rural neighbors, provides the necessary perspective for rural communities, government agencies, veterans’ advocates, and other policymakers interested in directing programs and services to this population

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has identified veterans living in rural areas as a population of interest. To help address concerns of veterans’ access to care, Congress established the Office of Rural Health.

According to a 2017 American Community Survey Report, veterans choose rural communities for a variety of reasons, including: more privacy, open space for recreation, lower cost of living, and transition isolation preferred for healing. While veterans may enjoy the benefits of rural living, they may also experience rural health care challenges that are intensified by combat-related trauma.

In rural areas, basic levels of health care or preventative care may not be available to support veterans’ long-term health and wellbeing. Just like any rural resident, it may be difficult for rural Veterans and their caregivers to access health care and other services due to rural delivery challenges.

The objective of Heal the Hero’s Rural America initiative is the revitalization of veterans living in rural America, helping them realize success potential for themselves and for their families. We believe that the revitalization of mental health for these veterans is a key for the reinvigoration of our rural communities.

Recently, Heal the Hero launched a pilot program providing veterans in rural Eastern Montana with full access to the six-month Heal the Hero program, delivered to them on a remote, tele-health basis. This was made possible through a grant to veterans in collaboration with Montana’s Dawson Community College who has provided facilities for delivery of the program. The foundation views this innovative collaboration, a first-of-its-kind initiative, as a model to meet the needs of rural veterans throughout the country.

Dawson Community College

Dawson Community College, Glendive, Montana.

Overview of Program Results

(Final Scores from a 6-Month Program) 

Vitanya Assessment Results

Reduction of the impacts of Trauma, Depression, and Anxiety

  • 36% reduction in Trauma
  • 23% reduction in Depressive Symptoms
  • 33% reduction in Anxiety Symptoms

Improvement to Employee Quality of Life 

  • 34 % Psychological Health
  • 23% Physical Health
  • 17% General Feeling about life
  • 12% Environment
  • 8% Social Relationships
  • 18% Overall Quality of Life (total)

Improved Executive Functioning for Increased Work Performance 

  • 41% Attention
  • 35% Emotion Regulation
  • 35% Working Memory
  • 31% Self-Monitoring
  • 31% Inhibitory Control
  • 31% Planning
  • 28% Flexibility
  • 26% Initiation
  • 25% Organization

“The Heal the Hero program has been a game changer for our family. My wife became pregnant during the program and our stress levels and anxiety have still been much lower than before we started. Going to college during the program has allowed me to recognize the significant improvement in my mental performance. Now I feel prepared to take on the challenges of daily life and pay the kindness forward with volunteer services for our community. I want to thank everyone at Heal the Hero for everything they’ve done for us!”

Thad and Eryn Rule