Most Recent Update 07/16/2012
If you are a veteran of active military service and were discharged or released from service under honorable conditions, you are eligible to apply for VA health care as long as you met minimum duty requirements.
If you are a veteran who entered active duty military service prior to September 9, 1980, any amount of active duty qualify. If you enlisted or commissioned into the Armed Forces after September 9, 1980 or your entry on active duty was after October 16, 1981, you are eligible for veterans health care benefits if you completed 24 months of continuous active service or the full period of military service for which you were called or ordered to active duty.
If a National Guardsman or reservist, you served the entire period for which you were called to active duty other than for training purposes only.
Specifically, Eligibility for VA health care is a two-step process:
- VA must determine your eligibility status as a veteran by reviewing your
- Character of Discharge from active military service, and your
- Length of active military service – Active military service means full-time service, other than active duty for training, as a member of the Armed Services, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Active duty for training for the National Guard and Reserve does not qualify as full-time service.
- VA must determine whether you qualify for one of the eight enrollment Priority Groups (see ‘Enrollment Priority Groups’ also above).
Step 1. Determine your qualifying military service
The character of discharge you received from the military can be a factor. It is not an issue if you received:
- An honorable discharge
- A general discharge
- A discharge under honorable conditions
If you have a different character of discharge, you may still be eligible for care. Contact your Enrollment Coordinator at your local VA health care facility to see if you qualify.
The length of your service may also matter. It depends on when you served. There’s no length of service requirement for:
- Former enlisted persons who started active duty before September 8, 1980, or
- Former officers who first entered active duty before October 17, 1981
- All other veterans must have 24 months of continuous active duty military service or meet one of the exceptions (see the ’24 Month Exception Page’ also above).
Step 2. Enrollment in VA Health Care System
Generally, you must be enrolled in VA health care system to receive benefits offered in the Medical Benefits Package.
To apply for VA health care benefits, including enrollment you must fill out an application for enrollment, VA Form 10-10EZ. The VA will use the application to determine:
- Whether you have qualifying service as a veteran
- What your veteran status is so that you can be placed into one of the Enrollment Priority Groups
Once enrolled, most veterans remain enrolled from year to year without further action on their part. However,
- Some veterans need to provide updated financial information to continue their enrollment in a certain Priority Group
- You may cancel your enrollment anytime
Note: certain veterans do not need to be enrolled to receive medical care benefits.
You do not have to be enrolled if you:
- Have been determined by VA to be 50% or more disabled from service-connected (SC) conditions
- Are seeking care for a VA rated service-connected disability only
- It is less than one year since you were discharged for a disability that the military determined was incurred or aggravated by your service, but that VA has not yet rated
However, enrolling will assist VA in planning and budgeting resources.