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Veterans' Location in Health Professional Shortage Areas: Implications for Access to Care and Workforce Supply

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Objective: To describe the distribution of Veterans in areas of the United States where there are potentially inadequate supplies of health professionals, and to explore opportunities suggested by this distribution for fostering health workforce flexibility.

Data Sources: County-level data from the 2015–2016 Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA's) Area Health Resources Files (AHRF) were used to estimate Veteran populations in HRSA-designated health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). This information was then linked to 2015 VA health facility information from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Study Design: Potential Veteran populations living in Shortage Area Counties with no VHA facilities were estimated, and the composition of these populations was explored by Census division and state.

Principal Findings: Nationwide, approximately 24 percent of all Veterans and 23 percent of Veterans enrolled in VHA health care live in Shortage Area Counties. These estimates mask considerable variation across states.

Conclusions: An examination of Veterans residing in Shortage Area Counties suggests extensive maldistribution of health services across the United States and the continued need to find ways to improve health care access for all Veterans. Effective avenues for doing so may include increasing health workforce flexibility through expansion of nurse practitioner scopes of practice.

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