Veterans and the VA: Procedures and Process

Swords to Plowshares

VA Healthcare Eligibility  

Around one-half of the veteran population (9.7 out of 20.4 million) are enrolled in the VA. The majority of veterans receive care outside of VA. Women are less likely to use VA care than men.

Coverage is not automatic, indefinite, and guaranteed. Generally, veterans may be eligible for VA healthcare if they served in the active military, naval, or air service and received an honorable, general under honorable conditions, or general discharge. Veterans with other than honorable discharges are largely precluded from receiving VA care but are still eligible at certain levels, including some amount of mental healthcare.  

In addition to discharge status and branch, eligibility for VA healthcare differs according to the era in which a veteran was in the military or depending on the component. Those who enlisted after September 7, 1980 or entered active duty after October 16, 1981 must have served 24 months (continuously) or the full period if they were called to active duty for less than 24 months. This may not apply to those who: 1) were discharged for a service-related disability or a disability that was made worse by being in the military; or 2) were discharged due to hardship.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT VA HEALTHCARE

  • Healthcare is NOT automatic; veterans need to apply in-person at a VA facility.
  • Veterans should be sure to bring evidence of eligibility (service/medical records, DD-214, letters of support from family/other service members).
  • Healthcare for newly-separated veterans is free for five years.
  • Mental healthcare for newly-separated veterans is free for one year.

THE REFERRAL PROCESS  

IF A VETERAN IS ENROLLED WITH THE VA… 
  1. The fastest way for a veteran to make appointments is for a service provider to call a VA health facility where the client or patient wants to receive care.

Find a VA health facility’s phone number. 

  1. Veterans can schedule appointments online, refill prescriptions, view their health records, and send secure messages to their care team using MY HEALTHEVET.
  1. If the matter is urgent, call the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, then press 1. 
IF A VETERAN IS NOT ENROLLED AT VA… 
  1. First help them find out if they’re eligible for VA healthcare benefits. 
  1. If they’re eligible, they need to apply using a specific form (Application for Health Benefits: VA Form 10-10EZ) at the Veterans Health Administration. They can apply online, in person, or by phone at 1-877-222-8387. 

Read more from this chapter

Community discussion

E-NEWSLETTER

Be the first to know

Subscribe to our e-newsletter and stay current with veteran issues and news.
REad the latest issue