You have special eligibility for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for five years following your discharge from active duty. The VA also provides free mental health services at Vet Centers. Reservists and National Guard members who were called to active duty by a federal executive order may qualify for VA healthcare benefits.

How do I enroll in the VA healthcare system?

Call the nearest VA Medical Center (VAMC) and follow the prompts for "recently discharged combat veterans" to connect with the Iraq and Gulf War Coordinator. The coordinator will ask you to fill out a form and provide your DD214 in order to enroll for VA healthcare. Once you are enrolled in the VA system you can obtain care at VA facilities nationwide. In addition, women veterans can call and ask to speak to the Women Veterans Program Manager at the VAMC.

  • For more information visit www.va.gov or www.va.gov/rcs
  • Bedford VAMC (781) 687-2000, VA Boston Healthcare System (617) 232-9500 (covers West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Brockton), Northampton VAMC (413) 584-4040.

What is TRICARE?

TRICARE is the Department of Defense's regionally managed healthcare program for active duty and retired members of the uniformed services, including members of the Guard and Reserve who are issued orders for more than 30 days for a contingency operation. Unlike VA healthcare, TRICARE covers the health, dental, and mental health needs of you and your dependents. Eligibility for TRICARE is determined by the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), a database of uniformed services members entitled under the law to TRICARE benefits. TRICARE manages the military healthcare program, but DEERS determines if you are eligible to receive TRICARE coverage. DEERS registration is required for TRICARE eligibility and is the key to your benefits. Once registered in DEERS, it is important to keep your DEERS records updated when personal eligibility information changes, such as changes in military career status, addresses, and family status (marriage, divorce, birth, and adoption).

  • For TRICARE information, visit www.tricare.mil or call customer service in the north region of the U.S. at (877) 874-2273.
  • For DEERS registration and to update personal information visit www.tricare.mil or call (800) 538-9552.
  • The SAVE Team may be able to provide direct link and referral to assist you. Call (888) 844-2838.

I was in the vicinity of a rocket blast. What resources are available to me?

The VA offers services for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and Vet Centers as well as group therapy sessions. The VA's Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program offers a variety of vocational programs designed to return veterans with TBI, mental, and physical disabilities to the workforce. You must be VA-eligible.

If you are not eligible for VA services or need additional help, you and your family can apply for services through Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission's Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services (BISSCS). BISSCS services for eligible clients include case management, social/recreational programs, skills training via regionally-based head injury centers, respite, residential services/programs, and family support services.

  • Visit www.cwt.va.gov or call a Compensated Work Therapy program in Massachusetts to speak to a CWT coordinator. Bedford (781) 687-2000, Brockton (508) 583-4500, Northampton (413) 584-4040, and Boston for women only (857) 364-4149.
  • Visit BISSCS website at www.mass.gov/mrc or call the veterans' representative at the BISSCS (617) 204-3662 or (800) 223-2559 x2.
  • The Military and Family Support Center has TBI support resources. Call (800) 772-1237.
  • The SAVE Team provides TBI support. Email save@massmail.state.ma.us or call (888) 844-2838.
  • The DVS website has a comprehensive listing of TBI resources.

(Welcome Home, 3rd edition, April 2010.)

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