Many veterans are eligible to receive health care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions, and service-connected disability rating, status as a recent combat veteran, receipt of certain medals (e.g. Purple Heart), or income. “Active military service” means full-time service, other than active duty for training, as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Reservists and National Guard members who were called to active duty by the federal government are generally also eligible for VA health care if they meet the other requirements.

Dishonorable and bad conduct discharges may make a veteran ineligible for VA benefits, and the VA is prohibited by law from providing any benefits, including health care, to a veteran with an outstanding felony warrant. Some family members of veterans are eligible for VA benefits as well. For more information, see the “Information & Resources for Family Members” section of this guide.

Enrollment

To obtain VA health care most veterans are required to enroll in the VA system and provide documentation that they are eligible for VA services, such as a copy of their discharge/separation papers (form DD-214). There are several ways to apply for enrollment including:

Veterans are enrolled in one of eight priority groups. Veterans seeking care for service-connected injuries or disabilities receive the highest priority for health care. The VA system is divided into regions called Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN). Massachusetts is part of VISN 1 which is the VA New England Healthcare System. You can obtain additional assistance enrolling for VA health care by contacting your local veterans’ service officer.

For more information about, call 1-877-222-8387 or visit www.va.gov.

Special Eligibility for Combat Veterans

Under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of Fiscal Year 2008 (38 USC § 1710 (e)(1)(D)) all veterans who served in a combat theater of operations after November 11, 1998 are entitled to five years of VA health care from the date of separation from military service. Combat veterans are automatically enrolled in Priority Group 6.

Issues with VA Health Care

The VA has a patient advocate system for veterans who disagree with their doctors about their treatment, or have other issues related to health care received at VA facilities. If you have a question regarding VA medical personnel or the type or quality of care you or a family member is receiving at the VA, ask to speak to a patient advocate at the VA medical center where you or your family member received treatment. For more information visit: http://www.patientadvocate.va.gov.

Note: If you feel that you or a family member have been abused by VA medical personnel, or have witnessed misconduct on the part of VA employees, you may wish to file a complaint with the VA Office of the Inspector General:

VA Inspector General Hotline (53E)
810 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20091-2042
Toll-free hotline: 1-800-488-8244 (8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays)
Email: vaoighotline@va.gov
http://www.va.gov/oig/contacts/hotline.asp