Health Care Benefits

Veterans of the armed forces may be eligible for a broad range of programs and services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). General eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Active service means full-time service, other than active duty for training.

VA health care enrollment

For most veterans, entry into the VA health care system begins by applying for enrollment. The following categories of veterans are not required to enroll, but are encouraged to do so to enable the VA to better plan health resources:

  • Veterans with a service-connected disability of 50 percent or more.
  • Veterans seeking care for a disability the military determined was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, but which VA has not yet rated, within 12 months of discharge.
  • Veterans seeking care for a service-connected disability only.
  • Veterans seeking registry examinations (Ionizing Radiation, Agent Orange, Gulf War/Operation Iraqi Freedom and Depleted Uranium).

The VA uses priority groups to balance demand for health care enrollment with resources. Each veteran is assigned to a priority group during enrollment. Changes in available resources may reduce the number of priority groups VA can enroll. If this occurs, VA will publicize the changes and notify affected enrollees.

Disability compensation

Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service-connected.

Disability compensation is paid monthly and varies with the degree of disability and the number of a veteran’s dependents. Veterans with certain severe disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation. Disability benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.

The amount of VA compensation paid to disabled veterans is influenced by:

  • the payment of military retirement pay
  • disability severance pay and separation incentive payments, known as SSB (Special Separation Benefits)
  • VSI (Voluntary Separation Incentives)

For more information about veteran health care benefits, see Federal Benefits for Veterans, published by the VA.