Intersecting Contexts: Understanding Rural Utah Veterans’ Experiences with Accessing VA Health Care


Rural sociology, Veterans, Rural Utah


Since the passage of the Rural Veterans Care Act of 2006 research has focused on health care provider issues with less attention given to individual and contextual factors that contribute to the remaining service gap. Adopting the health care user's viewpoint, we focus on two questions: How do health care users perceive access to health care, and which contextual factors are relevant to explaining the failure of recent efforts to increase access by rural veterans? We collected detailed data through focus groups and individual interviews involving veterans and knowledgeable community members in four rural areas of Utah. Framing the analysis of interview data using the sociospatial approach reveals key dimensions of several contexts that affect rural veterans’ access to health care: the historical period of military service that influences attitudes toward use of Veterans Administration health care and access to specialists, regulations of regionally and locally organized insurance coverage that affects access to and coordination of health care, and local social aspects of rural communities that inform use of specific health care sources. These dimensions provide new insights into the conditions that contribute to variations in the vulnerability of rural Utah veterans.

Original Publication Citation

Intersecting Contexts: Understanding Rural Utah Veterans’ Experiences with Accessing VA Health Care. 2017. Carol Ward, Matthew Stearmer and Michael Cope, Rural Sociology, 82 (4), December 2017: 664-687. (Article DOI: 10.1111/ruso.12155)

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Rural Sociology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor