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Coronavirus FAQs: What Veterans need to know

Our call centers and some VA health facilities are currently experiencing very high numbers of calls. To help us address the most urgent needs first, we ask that you use our online tools and frequently asked questions (FAQs) for routine or non-urgent questions. We’ll continue to update this page as the situation changes.

Health care, appointments, and more

What's coronavirus COVID-19?

The CDC defines COVID-19 as a new type of coronavirus (or “novel coronavirus”). COVID-19 belongs to a large family of viruses that are common in people and different animal species. On rare occasions, animal coronaviruses can infect people, and then spread from person-to-person. This is how COVID-19 started. Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

To learn more about COVID-19, prevention steps, guidance for high-risk groups, travelers, and more, visit the CDC.

 

What should I do if I have symptoms?

If you have a fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, call your VA medical center before going to a clinic, urgent care, or emergency room. You can also send your doctor a secure message through My HealtheVet.

Contacting us first helps us protect you, medical staff, and other patients.

Visit the CDC to learn more about the symptoms of COVID-19.

 

What's VA doing to deal with COVID-19?

We have activated VA’s emergency management coordination cell (EMCC), and have started clinical screenings at all VA facilities. Learn about VA’s public health response

 

Can I be tested for COVID-19?

Testing is based on many factors, including the severity of symptoms, other existing illnesses or conditions, possible exposure, and other criteria. VA health facilities have been testing Veterans who meet the testing criteria provided by the CDC. There’s no charge for testing.

 

What should I do if I have an upcoming VA health appointment?

For routine appointments, we recommend using telehealth (phone or video) for your scheduled appointment. You can also cancel and reschedule your appointment for a later date.

If you have a non-urgent elective procedure scheduled, we may contact you to cancel or reschedule for a later date. Note: Urgent and emergent procedures will continue as scheduled.

To change your in-person appointment to a telehealth visit:

Once your provider schedules a telehealth appointment, you’ll receive a VA Video Connect link (or another approved video meeting tool). Learn more about VA Video Connect

 

What should I do if I have a community care appointment?

If you have a scheduled appointment with a community care (non-VA) provider, please contact them directly before going.

Some community care providers may be affected by closures, limited services, quarantining, or social distancing based on CDC and local health department guidelines. If your appointment is canceled, work with your community care provider to reschedule.

Because we understand that many communities are affected, we're extending VA authorizations for community care referrals, so you can continue to work with your community care provider to meet your needs. If you have concerns about rescheduling your community care appointment, send a secure message to your VA provider.

 

Can I get a referral to see a community care provider if I can't be seen at VA?

During the pandemic, we’re continuing to make community care referrals when needed. Because of COVID-19, we’re currently prioritizing referrals for urgent or other medically necessary care.

Note: Some community care providers may be affected by closures, limited services, quarantining, or social distancing based on CDC and local health department guidelines.

Appointments to see community care providers need to be approved by VA (except for emergency and urgent care needs). Getting a referral depends on eligibility, type of care, and other factors.

At this time, community care eligibility requirements haven't changed. Learn about eligibility for community care

 

How do I reschedule or cancel my upcoming VA appointment?

Sign in to your VA.gov account to reschedule or cancel your appointments online.

Note: Some clinics are advising patients to not reschedule or schedule new appointments for some types of routine care, as they develop more guidance on safely providing care to protect patients and staff. Because this is a rapidly changing situation, the best way to get the most up-to-date facility information is to check your local VA health facility’s website. Find a VA location 

View, schedule, or cancel a VA appointment online

What if I tried to call my clinic, and I can’t get through?

We apologize if you’re not able to get through or are experiencing long hold times. We’re currently experiencing very high numbers of calls. Our staff is working hard to handle the increase in calls.

To help us address the most urgent needs first, we ask that you use one of our online tools for routine or non-urgent concerns. You can:

 

What should I do if I need to refill or renew my prescription?

If you currently get your prescription sent to you by mail, you’ll continue to receive your refills as normal. If you usually pick up your prescription in person, use one of these other ways to get your medicine refilled or renewed. 

To make sure you have your medicine in time, request your refill or renewal at least 10 days before you’ll run out of your current prescription.

  • Online. Use our online prescription refill and tracking tool to refill or renew your prescription.
  • By phone. The phone number of your VA pharmacy is on your prescription label. To renew or refill by phone, have your RX number on the prescription label and your Social Security number ready. For many prescriptions that are no longer refillable, this automated phone line may allow you to send a request for more of this medication to be sent to you. For some medications, your health care team may contact you first.
  • By mail. To refill by mail, complete the prescription refill form for each medication, and mail it to your VA pharmacy. The pharmacy address is listed on paperwork that came with your prescription.

For questions about your prescriptions, send a secure message to your provider through My HealtheVet or call your local VA medical center. 

 

Can I use emergency care?

If you’re experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest ER.

If you have an urgent care need, we ask that you contact us first. You can use secure messaging or call your facility’s advice nurse before going to a clinic or walk-in urgent care facility. By not using the ER for nonmedical emergencies, you can help us protect you, medical staff, and other patients, as well as help us address critical medical needs first during this period of COVID-19 outbreak. 

Symptoms that may need emergency medical (immediate) attention include:

  • Chest pain
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms or on one side of your body
  • Severe fever or violent vomiting
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop

Symptoms that may need urgent care attention (within 24 to 48 hours) include:

  • Sore throat, earache
  • Sprains or strained muscles from sports or exercise
  • Minor cuts and injuries

Note: For emergencies, you don’t need a referral or approval from VA to go to an ER in your community (an ER that's not a VA facility).

 

I don’t have symptoms, but I feel anxious and overwhelmed. What can I do?

First, it's important to know you're not alone, and we're here for you. Concerns about COVID-19 can be stressful for many people. You can take steps to manage stress and get support.

  • Stay connected and healthy. Stay in touch with friends and family by phone and social media. Follow your normal routine as much as possible, and get enough sleep and exercise. 
  • Keep your existing mental health appointments. If you currently have regular sessions, you can change them to telehealth (phone or video) appointments by sending your provider a secure message through My HealtheVet .
  • Ask for a new mental health appointment. If you need same-day mental health care—or want to request a new appointment—call your local VA health facility. Find a VA location

Get more VA tips for maintaining your mental health

Visit the CDC to learn more about managing COVID-19 stress and anxiety

 

How do I know if my VA health facility is still open for regular appointments?

Because this is a rapidly changing situation, the best way to get the most up-to-date facility information is to check your local VA health facility’s website. Find a VA location

 

Can I visit a patient at a VA facility?

At this time, we recommend that you postpone your visit to help stop community spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. Postponing your visit helps us protect older Veterans and those who already have health issues.

Note: In order to protect the most vulnerable patients against community spread, we're currently not permitting outside visitors to see residents in nursing homes, and spinal cord injury and disorder centers, except for compassionate cases. "Compassionate case" means that the Veteran is in their last stage of life in a hospice unit. In compassionate cases, visitors will be limited to a specific Veteran’s room only. 

Learn about the steps we’re taking to protect Veterans in nursing homes.

To learn about social distancing and other ways to prevent community spread of COVID-19, visit the CDC.

Benefit payments, claims, and claim exams

Will my benefit payment be delayed because of COVID-19?

We’re currently processing all benefit payments as normal. Benefit payments include payments for disability, pension, education payments to your school, and more.  

View your VA benefit payments online

 

My school changed all classes to online. Will I still qualify for my GI Bill benefits?

Yes. If you’re currently receiving GI Bill benefits, payments will continue automatically. You don’t have to do anything. We know that many schools have changed to online classes in response to COVID-19.

We’re working closely with schools to ensure enrollments are accurately certified and processed.

If you have specific questions, you can contact the Education Call Center toll-free at 888-442-4551, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET.

 

Are VA regional offices closed?

We’ve temporarily closed all of our 56 regional offices for in-person visits, following current CDC guidelines to prevent community spread.

Our regional office staff are still available by phone and by video conferencing tools like VA Video Connect (or other approved video meeting tools). We’re continuing to support services like educational counseling, collecting information for fiduciary claims, and other assistance by phone or video.

To call your regional office for help with benefits or to request a video appointment, call 800-827-1000 toll-free.

To check on the status of your claim or appeal, use our online claim status tool.

For other benefit questions, you can also send your question to our online customer service tool called IRIS (Inquiry Routing & Information System)

 

How can I stay updated on regional office closures or service interruptions?

For the latest status of our regional offices and other benefit services, you can:

VBA Facebook

VBA Twitter: @VAVetBenefits

 

How do I contact my local regional office?

Call us toll-free at 800-827-1000. Our regional office staff are still providing benefits help by phone and video. 

Status of VA national cemeteries and burials

Are VA national cemeteries open?

Yes. VA national cemeteries remain open but, for the safety of employees and visitors, we ask that visitors follow social distancing and travel restrictions based on CDC and local health department guidelines.

Some cemetery areas may be closed to the public. You should contact the cemetery for more information.

Find updates on the operating status of individual national cemeteries 

 

Can I still schedule a burial at a national cemetery? 

Yes. To schedule an interment, contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117. VA national cemeteries remain open for direct interments of Veterans and eligible dependents. Immediate family members (limited to 10 individuals) of the deceased can witness the interment, if requested and approved by the cemetery. 

If you would like to cancel or postpone an interment that’s already scheduled, please contact the cemetery directly to cancel the service and to reschedule future services when ready.

 

Can I schedule a committal service or a military funeral honors service?

Not at this time. For the safety of volunteers, families, and staff, national cemeteries won’t be conducting committal services or rendering military funeral honors until further notice. Families are welcomed to proceed with a direct interment at this time and schedule a committal service and military honors for a later date once normal operations resume.

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