In theory, Veterans that served on active duty for a qualifying length of time (including some Reserve and Guard callups) and received an other than dishonorable discharge are eligible for veterans health care. However, since the Department of Veteran Affairs does not receive enough funding, care is rationed based both on the Veteran’s service history and current net worth and income.
Veterans Health Care and Priority Groups
The VA calls these Priority Groups. For example, Veterans having a 50% or greater disability rating are in Priority Group 1, OIF and OEF Veterans start in Priority Group 6 (unless other aspects of their service history move them to a higher group), and persons with no service connected disabilities and whose income is above the geographic income threshold are in Priority Group 8. Additionally, veterans who would be in Group 8 and had not enrolled in the VA system prior to January 16, 2003 will not be able to enroll until their income falls below the limit.
- General Under Honorable
- Discharge under Honorable Conditions
Persons receiving Dishonorable or Bad Conduct discharges from a general courts-martial are not eligible for VA medical benefits. Persons having discharges from a special courts-martial or with administrative Other than Honorable discharges may be eligible for VA medical benefits. US Code Title 38 §3.12, Title 38 §5303(a)
Qualifying Military Service – Active Duty
- Any length of service if enlisted active duty service started prior to September 8, 1980
- Any length of service if service as an officer began prior to October 17, 1981
- 24 months if service doesn’t meet the prior two qualifications
Qualifying Military Service – Reserve and Guards
- As a reservist, were called to Active Duty and completed the callup term
- As a Guard Member, were called up by federal executive order and completed the callup term
Other Service Qualifications for Veterans Health Care
- received an “early out”
- were released or discharged for a hardship
- were released due to a disability that ocurred in the service or was aggravated in the service
- was determined to have a a service related condition
- was discharged for reason other than disability, but had a condition that was disabling and would have justified a disability discharge (must be documented in service records)
How to Apply for Veterans Health Care
To enroll in the VA, print and fill out the Enrollment Form 10-10ez and take it to the nearest VA facility along with a copy of the Veteran’s DD-214. If the DD-214 is not available, a replacement can be ordered from the National Archives. You can also apply on line.
If the Veteran feels any of the following are true they should submit an application for serviced connected benefits:
- Injured while in Service
- Was seriously ill while in service, and the Veteran believes he or she has continuing problems
- Developed a mental or physical condition that may be related to military service
- Is permanently and totally disabled and the Veteran believes it is due to his or her military service
The Veteran should seek out the assistance of a Veteran Service Officer when filing a service connected claim for veterans health care. The VSO will assist him or her in filling out the paperwork, gathering the required documentation, and tracking the status of the claim at no cost.
Most Veterans Organizations, like the VFW, American Legion, Order of the Purple Heart, etc. have VSOs. The Veterans Affairs Departments for each state also have Veteran Service Officers. If you would like some assistance in finding a VSO near you or need help with your veterans health care, please call us at 888 777-4443.