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Eligibility for VA health care

Find out if you can get VA health care as a Veteran.

Am I eligible for VA health care benefits?

You may be eligible for VA health care benefits if you served in the active military, naval, or air service and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge.

If you enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981

You must have served 24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty, unless any of the descriptions below are true for you.

This minimum duty requirement may not apply if any of these are true:

  • You were discharged for a disability that was caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service, or
  • You were discharged for a hardship or “early out,” or
  • You served prior to September 7, 1980

If you’re a current or former member of the Reserves or National Guard

You must have been called to active duty by a federal order and completed the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty. If you had or have active-duty status for training purposes only, you don’t qualify for VA health care.

If you served in certain locations and time periods during the Vietnam War era

You’re eligible for VA health care. Keep reading to learn more.

Is there anything that will make me more likely to get these benefits?

Yes. You may qualify for enhanced eligibility status if you meet at least one of these requirements. Enhanced eligibility means that we’ll place you in a higher priority group. This makes you more likely to get benefits.

At least one of these must be true:

  • You receive financial compensation (payments) from VA for a service-connected disability
  • You were discharged for a disability resulting from something that happened to you in the line of duty
  • You were discharged for a disability that got worse in the line of duty
  • You’re a combat Veteran discharged or released on or after September 11, 2001
    Learn more about eligibility for transitioning active-duty service members and returning combat Veterans
  • You get a VA pension
  • You’re a former prisoner of war (POW)
  • You have received a Purple Heart
  • You have received a Medal of Honor
  • You get (or qualify for) Medicaid benefits
  • You served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998
  • You served at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987

Or, you must have served in any of these locations during the Vietnam War era:

  • Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976 
  • Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969
  • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969
  • Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 31, 1980
  • Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977
  • Republic of Vietnam from January 9, 1962 through May 7, 1975

If none of these descriptions apply to you, you may still qualify for health care based on your income. Find out if you may be eligible for free or reduced cost health care based on your income.

Learn more about income limits and your VA health care

What should I do if I received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge?

If you’ve received one of these discharge statuses, you may not be eligible for VA benefits.

There are 2 ways you can try to qualify:

Find out how to apply for a discharge upgrade

Learn about the VA Character of Discharge review process

Checking your application status.

What if I need help filling out my application?

You can get help in any of these ways:

More about VA health care eligibility

When you apply for VA health care, you’ll be assigned 1 of 8 priority groups. This system helps to make sure that Veterans who need immediate care can get signed up quickly.

Your priority group may affect how soon we sign you up for health care benefits. It may also affect how much (if anything) you’ll have to pay toward the cost of your care.

Learn more about priority groups

No. Whether or not you have other health insurance coverage doesn’t affect the VA health care benefits you can get.

Learn more about how VA works with other insurance

If you’re retiring, you’re eligible for TRICARE. You may also qualify for certain VA health care benefits.

If you’re separating from service due to a service-connected illness or injury, you may be eligible for VA health care benefits and certain TRICARE benefits.

If you’re an OEF/OIF/OND combat Veteran who has just returned from service, you can receive free medical care for any condition related to your service in Iraq or Afghanistan for 10 years after discharge.

Learn more about health care benefits for transitioning service members

Visit to find out if you qualify for health insurance.

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Find out how you may still be able to get care for:

Or, call our general VA hotline at 800-827-1000, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET to find out what your care options may be.

We cover routine eye exams and preventive tests under VA health care benefits. In some cases, you may get coverage for eyeglasses or services for blind or low vision rehabilitation.

Learn more about vision care through VA

In certain cases, you may receive dental care as part of your VA health benefits.

Find out if you can get dental care through VA

If you have an illness or injury that was caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service, you may be able to get disability compensation.

Find out if you qualify for disability benefits