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.
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:
What if I need help filling out my application?
You can get help in any of these ways:
Call our toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387. We’re here Friday, September 29, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. CT, and Saturday, September 30, 7:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. CT.
Get help from an accredited representative (a trained professional trusted to help with VA-related claims).
Request a representative
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.
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.
Find out how you may still be able to get care for:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Learn more about PTSD treatment services
- Other mental health problems (like depression or substance abuse)
Learn more about mental health treatment services
- Mental and physical health problems linked to military sexual trauma (MST)
Learn more about MST treatment services
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.