Responding to identified needs for increased veterans' access to healthcare, in 2010 the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched the Veteran Community Partnership (VCP) initiative to "foster seamless access to, and transitions among, the full continuum of non-institutional extended care and support services in VA and the community". This initiative represents an important effort by VA to promote collaboration with a broad range of community organizations as equal partners in the service of veteran needs. The purpose of the study is an initial assessment of the VCP program. Focus group interviews conducted in six sites in 2015 included 53 representatives of the local VA and community organizations involved with rural and urban VCPs across the US. Interview topics included the experiences and practices of VCP members, perceived benefits and challenges, and the characteristics and dynamics of rural and urban areas served by VCPs. Using a community-oriented conceptual framework, the analyses address VCP processes and preliminary outcomes, including VCP goals and activities, and VCP members' perceptions of their efforts, benefits, challenges, and achievements. The results indicate largely positive perceptions of the VCP initiative and its early outcomes by both community and VA participants. Benefits and challenges vary by rural-urban community context and include resource limitations and the potential for VA dominance of other VCP partners. Although all VCPs identified significant benefits and challenges, time and resource constraints and local organizational dynamics varied by rural and urban context. Significant investments in VCPs will be required to increase their impacts.
Keywords: VA-community partnerships; community-engaged research; healthcare access; veterans.