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Veterans Affairs Health Care Benefits

Veterans Affairs operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system with more than 1,400 care sites, including hospitals, community clinics, community living centers, domiciliary, readjustment counseling centers and various other facilities.

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Eligibility and Enrollment

If you served in active military service and were discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits.

Note: National Guard members may qualify for VA health care benefits if they were called to active duty (other than for training only) and completed the full period they were ordered to active duty. Learn more from a Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor.

Your Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor can help you enroll for VA health benefits by helping you complete the VA Form 10-10EZ (Application for Health Benefits), which may be obtained from any VA health care facility or regional benefits office, online or by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Once enrolled, you can receive health care at VA health care facilities anywhere in the country.

Who should enroll:

  • Veterans with a service-connected disability of 50% or more.
  • Veterans seeking care for a disability the military determined was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, but which VA has not yet rated, within 12 months of discharge.
  • Veterans seeking care for a service-connected disability only.
  • Veterans seeking registry examinations (Ionizing Radiation, Agent Orange, Gulf War/Operation Iraqi Freedom and Depleted Uranium).

During enrollment, each veteran is assigned to a priority group. VA uses priority groups to balance demand for VA health care enrollment with resources. Changes in available resources may reduce the number of priority groups VA can enroll. If this occurs, VA will publicize the changes and notify affected enrollees. You can find out about these priority groups and how the classification affects payment at the Veterans Affairs website.

Medical services and medication

VA health benefits account for the following medical services:

  • Inpatient care
  • Extended care
  • Outpatient care
  • Preventive screening (such as mammograms and vaccinations)
  • Medication

Copays for your care may depend on your priority group classification. VA is also required to bill your private health insurance providers for medical care, supplies and prescriptions provided for treatment of veterans’ non-service-connected conditions. Generally, VA cannot bill Medicare but can bill Medicare supplemental health insurance for covered services. VA is not authorized to bill a high-deductible health plan (which is usually linked to a health savings account).

VA medical programs

Veteran health registries: Certain veterans can participate in a VA health registry and receive free medical examinations, including laboratory and other diagnostic tests deemed necessary by an examining clinician. VA maintains health registries to provide special health examinations and health-related information.

To participate, contact the environmental health coordinator at the nearest VA health care facility or visit to access the directory of EH coordinators.

  1. Gulf War Registry: This registry is available to veterans who served on active military duty in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War, which began in 1990 and continues to the present, including Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Gulf War examination registry was established after the first Gulf War to identify possible diseases resulting from U.S. military personnel service in certain areas of Southwest Asia. These diseases were endemic to the area or may have been due to hazardous exposures, including heavy metals. Furthermore, air pollutants such as carbon monoxide sulfur oxides, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, singly or in combination, could have caused chronic health problems.
  2. Depleted Uranium Registries: Veterans who are identified by the Department of Defense or have concerns about possible depleted uranium exposure are eligible for a DU evaluation. Depleted uranium is natural uranium left over after most of the U-235 isotope has been removed, such as that used as fuel in nuclear power plants. DU possesses about 60% of the radioactivity of natural uranium. It is a radiation hazard primarily if internalized, such as in shrapnel, contaminated wounds and inhalation. In addition to its radioactivity, DU has some chemical toxicity related to being a heavy metal (similar to lead). Note: VA maintains two registries for veterans possibly exposed to depleted uranium. The first is for veterans who served in the Gulf War, including Operation Iraqi Freedom. The second is for veterans who served elsewhere, including Bosnia and Afghanistan.
  3. Agent Orange Registry: This registry is available for veterans possibly exposed to dioxin or other toxic substances in herbicides used during the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1975, regardless of length of service, or while serving in Korea in 1968 or 1969, or as a result of testing, transporting or spraying herbicides for military purposes. DOD has provided a list of locations and dates where herbicides, including Agent Orange, were used. For those sites not listed, a Vietnam veteran should provide some proof of exposure to obtain a registry examination.
  4. Ionizing Radiation Registry: For veterans possibly exposed to, and who are concerned about, possible adverse effects of their atomic exposure during the following activities: on-site participation in an atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device, whether or not the testing nation was the United States; occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki from Aug. 6, 1945 through July 1, 1946; or internment as a POW in Japan during World War II, which the secretary of Veterans Affairs determines resulted in an opportunity for exposure to ionizing radiation comparable to that of veterans involved in the occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Counseling services

VA provides outreach and readjustment counseling services through 232 community-based Vet Centers located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Veterans are eligible if they served on active duty in a combat theater during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, or the campaigns in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Global War on Terror. Veterans who served in the active military during the Vietnam era but not in the Republic of Vietnam, must have requested services at a Vet Center before Jan. 1, 2004. Vet Centers don’t require enrollment in the VHA health care system.

Vet Center counselors provide:

  • Individual, group and family readjustment counseling to combat veterans to help them make a successful transition from military to civilian life
  • Counseling services for post-traumatic stress disorder and help with any other military-related problems that affect functioning within the family, work, school or other areas of everyday life
  • Outreach, education, medical referral, homeless veteran services, employment, VA benefit referral and the brokering of non-VA services
  • Military sexual trauma counseling to veterans of both genders and of any era of military service

Bereavement counseling is also available through Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Centers to all immediate family members (including spouses, children, parents and siblings) of service members who die in the line of duty while on active service. This includes federally activated members of the National Guard and Reserve Components.

Vocational services

VA provides vocational assistance and therapeutic work opportunities through several programs for veterans receiving VA health care. Each program offers treatment and rehabilitation services to help veterans live and work in their communities.

  1. Incentive Therapy provides a diversified work experience at VA medical centers for veterans who exhibit severe mental illness and/or physical impairments. IT services may consist of full- or part-time work with nominal remuneration limited to the maximum of one half of the federal minimum wage.
  2. CWT/Sheltered Workshop operates sheltered workshops at approximately 35 VA medical centers. CWT sheltered workshop is a pre-employment vocational activity that provides an opportunity for work hardening and assessment in a simulated work environment. Participating veterans are paid on a piece rate basis.
  3. CWT/Transitional Work is a vocational assessment program that operates in VA medical centers and/or local community business and industry. CWT/TW participants are matched to real-life work assignments for a time-limited basis. Veterans are supervised by personnel of the sponsoring site under the same job expectations experienced by non-CWT workers. CWT/TW participants are not considered employees and receive no traditional employee benefits.
  4. CWT/Supported Employment consists of full-time or part-time competitive employment with extensive clinical supports. The focus of CWT/SE is to assist veterans with psychosis and other serious mental illness gain access to meaningful competitive employment. CWT/SE follow-up support services are generally phased out after the veteran is able to maintain employment independently.

More information about health benefits through Veterans Affairs is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Benefits webpage.

Learn about the non-health related benefits offered through VA »

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