- First help them find out if they’re eligible for VA healthcare benefits.
- They can apply online, in person, or by phone at 1-877-222-8387.
- If they are eligible, they need to apply using a specific form (Application for Health Benefits: VA Form 10-10EZ at the Veterans Health Administration.
VA FACILITIES AND LOCATIONS
The VA has twenty-two geographic networks throughout the US, known as Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). Each VISN has medical center hospitals, community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs), regional benefits offices, vet centers, and other facilities.
To find a VA location near you, call 1-(844) 698-2311 or search the facilities locator, https://www.va.gov/find-locations/ where you can narrow your search to health, benefits or cemetery facilities.
HOW TO HELP VETERANS THROUGH THE APPLICATION PROCESS
- Let veterans know they can apply online, in person, by phone, or by mail.
- Once their application for enrollment is approved, they will receive a welcome phone call from the VA to assist them with scheduling the first healthcare appointment and answer questions about healthcare benefits.
- The VA will mail a Veterans Health Benefits Handbook that contains specific information regarding healthcare benefits the veteran is eligible for, their enrollment priority group assignment, information about copays, and other information for enrollees.
- If the veteran is unable to be enrolled and does not agree with the enrollment decision, they may appeal. The handbook includes information on appeals and will include a letter from the VA explaining why the veteran is unable to be enrolled. The letter will include instructions on how to appeal the decision.
Note: The VA has a duty to assist veterans and help applicants to establish eligibility. This means informing veterans on what information the VA needs for the application and helping the veteran obtain evidence relevant to their claim. (38 U.S.C. § 5103A; 38 C.F.R. § 3.159.) This also means they cannot turn away veterans and claim them ineligible. They must refer that decision to the Veterans Benefits Administration for determination of eligibility. The veteran can tell the facility to initiate a character of service determination process and ask for the necessary forms to do so.
VA PRIMARY CARE AS CONDUIT TO SPECIALTY CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH
Primary care is typically the first point of contact for veterans enrolled in VA care. If a veteran is enrolled and receiving primary care at the VA, it is much easier to connect them to other specialty services and mental healthcare and the primary care doctor acts as the coordinator of other needed services.
If a veteran receives primary care at the VA, their service-related conditions will be more easily diagnosed and applying for service-connected disability compensation will be more streamlined, as the primary care team is more connected to the claims process and can more easily provide evidence for the claim.
WHAT TO DO IF A VETERAN IS HAVING DIFFICULTIES AT THE VA
Patient advocates are available at every VA medical center and help veterans with concerns related to their VA care. They will refer the concerns to the VA medical center for an immediate resolution. The veteran can ask to be referred to the patient advocate when speaking to the VA.
HOW TO GET A VETERAN INTO VA MENTAL HEALTHCARE
If the veteran is enrolled in VA healthcare, you can tell them to ask their primary care provider for a referral. If they are not enrolled, they will first need to apply for VA healthcare and request an appointment once they’re enrolled. You can also tell the veteran to visit a Vet Center for counseling services (more on that in the next article.)
If the veteran is in crisis, you or they can call the Veterans Crisis Line (confidential 24/7 support)
- 1-(800) 273-8255 and Press 1,
- send a text message to 838255, or
- chat online.
IF THE VETERAN NEEDS EMERGENCY SERVICES…
If the veteran is in crisis and needs emergency services, have them go to the nearest hospital emergency room or call 911. If it is not a VA hospital, they may be able to move to a VA facility depending on their circumstances. Make sure they report their emergency care to the VA.
IF THE VETERAN HAS AN OTH DISCHARGE AND IS IN MENTAL DISTRESS…
If the veteran has an other than honorable discharge and they are in mental health distress, they are eligible for emergency stabilization care. Veterans with an OTH discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days. This can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.
Meanwhile, the VA will determine if the veteran’s mental health condition is as a result of a service-related injury. If so, the veteran would be eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.
Additionally, the VA now provides ongoing mental and behavioral healthcare to certain veterans with OTH discharges:
- Veterans who were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
- Veterans who experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.