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Eligibility, health services accessibility, qualitative



  1. Etchin, Anna G. PhD, RN (Polytrauma & TBI Rehabilitation Advanced Nurse Fellow)


Background: Veteran homelessness is a pervasive problem and a high-priority, mission-oriented area of investigation in the United States (US). Most veterans enrolled in healthcare with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) carry additional health coverage, which may increase their access to care. For veterans, dual use of VA and non-VA healthcare has potentially positive and negative consequences.


Purpose: To explore homeless veterans' experiences seeking and obtaining healthcare within and outside the VA.


Methodology: US homeless veterans were recruited from a large, urban Northeast Healthcare for the Homeless program from two sites. This was a descriptive phenomenological study. Three semistructured focus group interviews were conducted (total n = 21 distinct participants). We used inductive content analysis procedures to identify main themes in the data.


Results: We found four main themes: dual use decision making, access to care, preferences and perceptions of care, and suggestions for improving VA care. Although veterans in our sample had mixed positive and negative experiences with both systems, positive responses were more common regarding community care than VA. Veterans provided more verbose responses when describing negative VA experiences and more succinct responses for positive experiences.


Conclusions: We found mixed positive and negative experiences for both healthcare systems, although reports were more positive for non-VA care than VA.


Implications: Veterans' healthcare concerns and needs appeared difficult to meet. Future research is warranted to improve veteran-centered care access and care experiences.