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Older, Rural Veterans Face Unique Challenges
April 16, 2014
Did you know that 5.6 million veterans live in rural areas of the U.S.? That represents nearly a quarter of all veterans. And the majority of veterans in rural America are age 55 or older. That’s according the Housing Assistance Council’s (HAC) recent report, “From Service to Shelter: Housing Veterans in Rural America.” The report also talked about challenges for younger rural veterans, poverty, and housing affordability, but the findings on older rural veterans caught my attention:
- About 38 percent of veterans in rural areas who rent their homes experience housing cost burden, meaning that they spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing costs. Older veteran renters are more likely than younger veteran renters to experience housing cost burden.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, veterans in rural areas face limited social services and public transportation. Often they must travel far distances just to access services. Veterans in rural areas travel an average of 24 miles to access Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. That presents a significant challenge for older veterans, which make up the majority of rural vets.
- Rural veterans tend to have worse mental and physical health outcomes compared to those in urban and suburban areas.
As a quickly aging population, rural veterans face unique challenges. Add to that the fact that many of them live in older housing, which is more likely to need more repairs and upkeep than newer housing, and it’s easy to see how having adequate housing to age in place could become an additional challenge. As we forge ahead on ending veteran homelessness, we need to give real thought to the specific needs of this population.