Eligibility for Veterans’ Medical Care

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides health care benefits to veterans. The plan covers a number of health care services, including preventative services, diagnostic and treatment services, and hospitalization. It may also cover nursing home and other long-term care options.

The standard benefits package includes: Preventative care services, outpatient diagnostic and treatment services (including mental health and substance abuse treatment), inpatient diagnostic and treatment services, prescriptions, and long-term care (including nursing home care for some veterans).

To receive care, most veterans must be enrolled in the VA health system. Eligibility for the health system depends on a number of factors, including the nature of your discharge from military service, your length of service, whether you have service-connected disabilities, your income level, and available VA resources, among others.

To be eligible, you must not have been dishonorably discharged from the military. Your length of service may also be important. Former enlisted persons who started active duty before September 8, 1980, and former officers who first entered active duty before October 17, 1981, do not have a length-of-service requirement. Otherwise you must have 24 months of continuous active duty military service, though there are several exceptions for reservists, national guard members, service-connected disabilities, and hardship discharges, among others.

Certain veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA health system to receive benefits:

  • You are 50 percent or more disabled from a service-connected disability
  • You are seeking care for a VA rated service-connected disability
  • It has been less than one year since you were discharged for a disability that the military determined was caused or aggravated by your service, but the VA has not yet rated the disability.

The VA has limited resources, so if you are eligible for services, you will be assigned to a priority group. The priority groups range from 1-8 with 1 being the highest priority for enrollment. To see the priority list, click here.

How to enroll

You can fill out the form to enroll for health benefits online at https://www.1010ez.med.va.gov/sec/vha/1010ez/ or you can receive the form by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Once you complete and sign the form, mail it to your local VA health care facility. Click here to find the facility nearest you.

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