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The first requirement is that you served in the armed forces on active duty and did not receive a dishonorable discharge. Honorable, general, medical, etc. – those are acceptable discharges for VA benefits. Dishonorable, other than honorable, and bad conduct discharges are not.

These are the basic requirements, but they do not guarantee you will receive the medical care you want. The VA has a priority system to determine who is first in line for health care benefits.

What are Priority Groups and How Do They Determine Who is Eligible for Care?

When you apply for VA health benefits, the VA examines your application and assigns you to one of eight priority groups. This priority system is designed to make sure that the veterans who most urgently need care receive it without delay. Your assigned priority group will determine (1) how soon you can be signed up and accepted for care; and (2) what you will be charged, if anything, toward the cost of the care you receive.

Priority groups are assigned based on the following factors:

Veterans with a service-connected disability receive the highest priority for care. Those veterans with higher incomes who do not have a service-connected disability receive the lowest priority. Generally, the assumption is that veterans who have a higher income and are not disabled will either be employed and getting health benefits through group insurance, are economically able to pay for health care and health insurance, or on Medicare. If a veteran qualifies for more than one priority group, the VA will use the higher of the two priorities.

What are the Eight Priority Groups

Priority Group One

If any of the situations described below apply to you, you will be assigned to priority group one:

Priority Group Two

You have a service-connected disability that has been rated as 30-40% disabling.

Priority Group Three

If one or more of the following apply you are in group three:

Priority Group Four

You are either receiving VA aid and attendance or housebound benefits, or you have received a VA determination of catastrophically disabled (not service-connected).

Priority Group Five

You may be assigned to group five is any of the following are true:

Priority Group Six

The criteria for group six are:

Priority Group Seven

Your income is below the geographically adjusted income limits the VA uses, and you agree to pay copays for your care.

Priority Group Eight

Your income is above the geographically adjusted income limits, and you agree to pay copays.

If your service-connected disability becomes worse or if your income decreases, your priority group can change.

What Types of Health Care Benefits are Offered by the VA?

The VA system offers basic health care benefits, including annual examinations, health education, immunizations, counseling on genetic diseases, clinic visits to monitor ongoing conditions, and visits for episodic illnesses like colds, flu, etc. The VA also offers screening exams that are gender specific like mammograms, prostate exams, etc. The specific exams available at your local VA may vary from one VA facility to another.

The VA also offers inpatient services like surgeries, inpatient medical treatment, kidney dialysis, acute hospital care and post-operative care. If you need an organ transplant, intensive care for a mental illness, or specialized care for a traumatic injury, the VA may send you to another facility if your local VA hospital does not provide that service.

Some VA facilities offer urgent care and emergency department services. There is usually a walk-in clinic for episodic illnesses, wound care, and minor injuries. The VA also offers prescription service through its pharmacies when your VA doctor writes a prescription. It may also fill prescriptions written by non-VA physicians if the following are true:

What Documents do I Need to Apply for VA Health Care?

Once you figure out if you are eligible, you will need to gather the required documents for your application. You will need:

How Do I Apply for VA Health Care?

There are multiple ways to apply for VA health care:

Health Eligibility Center

2957 Clairmont Road, Suite 200

Atlanta, Georgia 30329

Resources

Veterans Health Benefits Guide

VA Health Care Providers