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Advance Directives

Choosing a person to make decisions

An Advance Directive is a legal form that helps your doctors and loved ones understand your wishes about medical and mental health care and make decisions about your care, if you are not able to make decisions for yourself.

An Advance Directive is the best way to ensure that your future medical care reflects your wishes.

The VA Advance Directive includes sections that allow you to identify the person who would make decisions for you (also called a Health Care Agent) and to specify your treatment preferences. Those sections are:

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – the part that says who will make decisions for you
  • Living Will – the part that details your wishes about treatments

The VA honors all types of legal Advance Directives, including forms from another state, Department of Defense or VA. The VA form contains more detail than most other forms and allows you the option to attach additional documents. If you do not use an Advance Directive form to choose a health care agent, then your VA health care provider will choose a spokesperson to make decisions for you in this order: legal guardian, spouse, adult child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or close friend. If the health care provider cannot find anyone from this list, VA staff or a court will make decisions for you.

What do I do with my Advance Directive after I complete it?

  • Put the original in a safe and easy-to-access place.
  • Give copies to your health care provider, Health Care Agent and a family member.
  • Put a note on the copies about where the original is kept.

To learn more:

Podcast on Advance Care Planning
What's an Advance Directive, and why should I complete one? (6:35)
Why it's a good idea to fill out an advance directive, and what you might want to think about before you do.