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Learn About VA Health Care Benefits
VA health care is provided to qualifying veterans by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Former members of the United States armed forces who qualify for VA health insurance enjoy many benefits, including protecting themselves and their loved ones from potentially expensive medical care costs. Eligibility is based on many factors, including the length and type of military service.
VA health care is offered through a network of medical facilities dedicated to providing the same level of care available at civilian hospitals and clinics. VA health insurance plans cover the same types of services as civilian doctors. VA health insurance may also cover some services that private health insurers may not routinely include, such as dental and vision care. Keep reading to learn more about VA medical benefits and how to enroll.
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What are the requirements for VA Health Care?
Veterans interested in receiving VA health care must meet certain eligibility requirements. Contrary to popular belief, VA medical benefits eligibility is not extended to every person who ever served in the U.S. armed forces. Usually, eligibility is based on meeting a certain minimum duty requirement. This is true for those who served in the active military, naval or air service and those who served with the National Guard or in the Reserves. Enrollment is intended for former service members and cannot be obtained by those who are currently serving in the military.
Certain VA healthcare enrollment applicants may qualify for an exemption from the minimum duty requirement, but an additional application process must be completed to check for exemption status. Veterans insurance coverage is not automatically withheld from former service members who were discharged with anything other than an honorable discharge. However, these applicants must follow the steps to apply for a discharge review. The service member may still be considered eligible if the review results in a favorable outcome.
Learn About VA Enrollment Priority Groups
VA healthcare eligibility is partially decided by using a Priority Groups (PG) system that sorts applicants according to specific factors. VA healthcare enrollment via PG is organized in a way that helps veterans who need health care the most be able to obtain it first. Priority is given to those with service-related disabilities or those who qualify to receive financial VA disability compensation.
VA healthcare eligibility is also linked to the disability percentage rating issued by VA for compensation purposes. For example, a former service member who has a 50 percent or above disability rating may qualify for care before a service member whose disability rating is 40 percent or below. VA healthcare eligibility for a higher PG group is also extended to those who served during certain military conflicts and recipients of specific military awards.
Find Out About the Types of VA Health Care Facilities
VA health care is the largest integrated health care system in America. The VA health care system includes well over a thousand medical facilities organized into Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). Each VISN includes some or all of the following types of medical facilities:
- VA Medical Center (VAMC) – These large VA health care facilities are comparable to civilian hospitals and offer most of the same types of services. This includes emergency care, surgical care and inpatient care for illnesses and injuries. The specific types of clinics and medical services offered may vary somewhat between VAMCs. Veterans fortunate enough to live in an area with more than one VAMC can choose which facility best meets his or her specific medical needs.
- Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) – These VA health care outpatient clinics help veterans have easier access to routine medical health care services. CBOCs are located in more remote areas where veterans may have trouble reaching a larger VAMC. A CBOC is the ideal place to obtain routine illness or injury care, immunizations and lab work. These outpatient clinics often provide preventive care services to help veterans manage certain chronic health care issues.
- Vet Center – Veterans insurance coverage for mental health care is provided at Vet Centers. The veteran’s entire family can receive counseling or therapy at a Vet Center for military-related family issues as part of the VA family health care benefits A Vet Center is a valuable addition to a VISN because VA mental health care issues are unique. Many civilian mental health care providers are not adequately trained to deal with the specific mental health challenges common to veterans and their family members.
- Community Living Center (CLC) – VA healthcare enrollment includes eligibility for skilled nursing care at VA CLCs. Comparable to a civilian nursing home, VA health care at a CLC serves older or disabled veterans in need of specific comprehensive services.
- VA Domiciliary – VA health care related to homelessness, addiction and other social problems can receive treatment at these homelike facilities.
What are the benefits of receiving VA health care?
VA health care provides veterans with benefits that are not available through any other type of health care program. Veterans who apply for VA health care find that VA medical professionals are familiar with the unique issues that veterans face and are familiar with the acronyms and abbreviations commonly used by former service members. This helps facilitate comfortable communication between veterans and their health care team.
VA health care cost factors are a major benefit of receiving health care through the VA network. Most veterans have no out-of-pocket costs for health care provided by the VA. Some qualifying veterans may have a small VA copay for certain services or medications, but the amounts are usually low. Veterans receiving VA health insurance coverage can also qualify to receive out-of-network care if they have needs that cannot be met by their local VISN.
How to Apply for VA Health Care
There are different ways to complete VA healthcare enrollment after establishing eligibility for benefits. Applicants may fill out the proper forms and submit them in several different ways.