Eligibility for health care through VA is a two-step process:
(1) VA must determine your eligibility status as a veteran by reviewing your
- Character of Discharge from active military service, and or
- Length of active military service
(2) VA must determine whether you qualify for one of eight enrollment priority groups.
Step 1. Determine you 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
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 described below.
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.
Minimum Service Requirement
You do not have to meet the 24 continuous months of active duty service requirement if you:
- Were a Reservist who was called to Active Duty and who completed the term for which you were called, and who was granted an other than dishonorable discharge, or
- Were a National Guard member who was called to Active Duty by federal executive order, and who completed the term for which you were called, and who was granted an other than dishonorable discharge, or
- Only request a benefit for or in connection with:
- A service-connected condition or disability; or,
- Treatment and or counseling of sexual trauma that occurred while on active military service; or,
- Treatment of conditions related to ionizing radiation; or,
- Head or neck cancer related to nose or throat radium treatment while in the military.
- Were discharged or released from active duty for a hardship, or,
- Were discharged with an “early out”, or,
- Were discharged or released from active duty for a disability that began in the service or got worse because of the service; or,
- Have been determined by VA to have compensable service-connected conditions; or,
- 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 last case, the disability must be documented in service records).
Step2, Enrollment in VA Health Care System
Generally, you must be enrolled in the VA health care system to receive benefits offered in the Medical Benefits Package. Certain veterans do not need 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.
- You 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 VA has not yet rated.
However, enrolling will assist VA planning and budgeting resources.