How to Qualify for VA Health care

The Veterans Affairs (VA) medical benefits package provides health care to veterans who qualify. Veterans qualify for VA health care if they have a military discharge other than dishonorable, and meet the minimum military service requirements.

If you have even one day of active-duty service before September 8, 1980, as an enlisted member, or before October 17, 1981, as an officer, you’re eligible for medical benefits.

Otherwise, you must have 24 months of continuous active-duty military service to be eligible for VA medical benefits, unless you meet one of the following exceptions:

  • You were a Reservist or member of the National Guard who was called to federal active duty, and you completed the entire term for which you were called.

  • You were discharged from active duty for reasons of a hardship.

  • You were discharged with an early out (that is, during a time when the military was undergoing a downsizing).

  • You were discharged or released from active duty for a disability that began in the service or got worse because of the service.

  • You have been determined by the VA to have a service-connected disability, entitling you to compensation.

  • You were discharged for a reason other than disability, but you had a medical condition at the time that was disabling and, in the opinion of a doctor, would have justified a discharge for disability. In this case, the disability must have been documented in your military medical records.

You also don’t have to meet the minimum service requirements if you are only seeking medical benefits for or in connection with:

  • A service-connected condition or disability

  • Treatment and/or counseling of sexual trauma that occurred while on active military service

  • Treatment of conditions related to ionizing radiation

  • Head or neck cancer related to nose or throat radium treatment while in the military

If you qualify for VA health care, you should enroll as soon as possible so you can receive the benefits you deserve. However, you don’t have to be enrolled if you:

  • Have been determined by the VA to be 50 percent or more disabled from service-connected conditions.

  • Are seeking care for a VA-rated, service-connected disability only.

  • Were discharged less than one year ago for a disability that the military determined was a result of or aggravated by your service, but that the VA has not yet rated.

If any of these situations applies to you, you can contact any VA medical center and make an appointment for medical care, even if you’re not enrolled in the VA health care program.

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