Veterans Medical Care Benefits provide outpatient medical services, hospital care, medicines, and supplies to eligible US military veterans. In order to receive health care, veterans generally must be enrolled in the Veterans Administration (VA) health system. Veterans may apply for enrollment in the VA health system at any time. Veterans' family members may also be eligible to receive benefits. There is no monthly premium for VA care, but there may be a co-pay.
Veterans may receive health care benefits without being enrolled in the VA health system if:
- they have service-connected disabilities of 50 percent or more;
- they want care for a disability that the military determined was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; or
- they want care for a service-connected disability only.
General Eligibility Requirements
Eligibility for most veterans' health care benefits is based solely on active military service in one of the seven uniformed services. These services are:
- The Army
- The Navy
- The Marine Corps
- The Coast Guard
- The Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service
- The Commissioned Officer Corps of the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
To be eligible, veterans must have been discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions. Applications filed by veterans whose separation papers indicate their service was other than honorable will be separately reviewed by the VA.
There is no special requirement regarding the length of military service for veterans who entered the service before the 1980s. Veterans who entered active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, or as an officer after October 16, 1981, will probably have to meet a minimum active duty requirement:]
- For reservists and National Guard members who were called to federal active duty by a presidential executive order, the usual requirement is service for the full length of time the veteran was ordered to serve.
- For all others, the usual requirement is 24 months of continuous service.
- There are a number of exceptions to these rules.
Because of budget requirements, the VA cannot offer health care to every veteran who meets these basic requirements. The law contains a complex system of priorities, mostly based on disability, income, and age.
Online Eligibility Tool: The VA offers an online tool for determining eligibility for VA health care benefits at http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility/eligibility/DetermineEligibility.asp.How to Apply
For more information on applying for Veterans Medical Care Benefits, contact the Veterans Health Benefits Service Center (http://www1.va.gov/health/) at 877-222-8387.