I-REACH (Improving Rural Enrollment, Access, and Healthcare in Rural Veterans)
- Need: To improve veterans' access to healthcare in rural Michigan.
- Intervention: I-REACH connects veterans to healthcare services and other programs and helps healthcare facilities and providers become more veteran-friendly.
- Results: The program has received positive feedback from Veteran Service Officers in counties where there were outreach events.
30% of Michigan's veterans live in rural communities
and may struggle to access healthcare, especially
specialty care. In addition, these veterans may face
barriers to internet and transportation, and veterans may
not feel that their healthcare providers understand their
Michigan State University and the Michigan Center for
Rural Health created the Improving Rural Enrollment,
Access, and Healthcare in Rural Veterans (I-REACH)
Project to improve veterans' access to care and to
improve care coordination.
I-REACH serves the 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula and
Huron, Tuscola, and Sanilac counties in the Thumb region.
This program is funded through a 2022
Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural
Veterans Health Access Program grant.
For healthcare facilities and providers:
I-REACH helps healthcare facilities and providers join
the VA Community
Care Network: non-VA community providers who serve
veterans. I-REACH also encourages providers to join one
Veterans Community Action Teams; these teams
collaborate, share best practices, and network with other
I-REACH also collects data from healthcare facilities to
determine how care and support for veterans can be
For veterans and community members:
I-REACH helps veterans with healthcare enrollment,
military service document retrieval, and technology
issues as well as encourages veterans to share their
military experiences (such as injuries or exposures to
chemicals) with healthcare providers.
I-REACH also connects veterans to programs such as an
Upper Peninsula program that offers grocery store gift
cards to veterans.
I-REACH supports the suicide prevention programs called
Governor's Challenge and Together
With Veterans and does community outreach at events
for veterans, healthcare providers, and other community
The program has received positive feedback from Veteran
Service Officers (VSOs) in counties where there were
outreach events. One county reported that the workflow,
including health and benefits applications and claims
filing, tripled. In another county, the VSO said,
“I can't stress enough the great impact it had.
Numbers keep growing as veterans spread the
word.” In another county, at least 11 new
members applied for the local American Legion as a result
of the I-REACH event there.
For questions about research, you can reach out to
principal investigator Dr. Emre Umucu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distance and weather can be barriers to conducting
in-person events. Virtual planning meetings were
conducted due to the distance between those attending the
Program coordinators created a community advisory board
of veterans and caregivers, clinicians, and policymakers
to identify veterans' needs and challenges. Partnerships
and collaboration with existing programs and veteran
advocates are also important.
Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency's
Veteran Connector program recommends asking new
patients or clients, “Have you or a member of
your household served in the military?” This
wording is preferred over “Are you a
veteran?” since some people who have served in
the military do not view themselves as veterans.
Culture and cultural competency
November 14, 2023
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
I-REACH (Improving Rural Enrollment, Access, and Healthcare in Rural Veterans) [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 6 December 2023]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.