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Veteran identity and race/ethnicity: influences on VA outpatient care utilization.

Harada ND, Damron-Rodriguez J, Villa VM, Washington DL, Dhanani S, Shon H, Chattopadhyay M, Fishbein H, Lee M, Makinodan T, Andersen R. Veteran identity and race/ethnicity: influences on VA outpatient care utilization. Medical care. 2002 Jan 1; 40(1 Suppl):I117-28.

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BACKGROUND: "Veteran identity" is defined as veterans' self-concept that derives from his/her military experience within a sociohistorical context. Veteran identity may vary by race/ethnicity because the sociohistorical context of the military experience varies by race. OBJECTIVES: To explore veteran identity and how it varies by race/ethnicity, and to identify aspects of veteran identity that significantly influence preferences for, and use of, VA outpatient care. RESEARCH DESIGN: Focus groups were conducted at community sites to explore concepts related to veteran identity, race/ethnicity, military experience, and health services use. The focus groups informed the development of a telephone survey, which was administered to veterans of four racial/ethnic groups in Southern California and Southern Nevada. SUBJECTS: One hundred seventy-eight veterans participated in the focus groups, and 3,227 veterans completed the telephone survey. MEASURES: Dependent variables include: (1) preference for VA health services, (2) VA-only outpatient use, (3) Any VA outpatient use, and (4) number of outpatient visits within the previous 12 months. Independent variables include veteran identity, sociodemographic, and health-related characteristics. RESULTS: All veteran identity variables were significantly associated with race/ethnicity. Race/ethnicity, eg, being black or Hispanic, in addition to veteran identity factors, significantly influenced preferences for VA outpatient care. Veteran identity factors, however, had less influence on VA outpatient service utilization than socioeconomic factors. CONCLUSIONS: Minority veterans who highly identify with their veteran status may prefer the VA to other systems of care. Factors associated with veteran identity may be useful for incorporation into interventions to improve access to VA care.

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