Skip to Content
Your browser is out of date. To use this website, please update your browser or use a different device.
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Health Care Benefits Eligibility

If you served in the active military, naval, or air service and separated under conditions other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits. Find out if you can get VA health care.

Can I get VA health care benefits?

You may be able to get VA health care benefits if you served on active duty and separated under conditions other than dishonorable.

You should know:

  • 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. This minimum duty requirement may not apply if you:

    • Were discharged for a disability that was caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service, or
    • Were discharged for a hardship or “early out,” or
    • 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 separated under conditions other than honorable:

Enhanced Eligibility Status

You may qualify for enhanced eligibility status (meaning you’ll be placed in a higher priority group, which makes you more likely to get benefits) if at least one of these applies to you:

  • 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 recently discharged Combat Veteran
  • You get a VA pension
  • You’re a former Prisoner of War (POW)
  • You’ve received a Purple Heart
  • You get (or qualify for) Medicaid benefits
  • You served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975
  • 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

If none of the above apply to you, you may still qualify for care based on your income. Learn more about how the amount of money your family makes can affect whether you qualify for VA benefits. Learn more about income limits.

What if I need help filling out my application?

Call our toll-free hotline at 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (ET).

Get help from an accredited representative (a trained professional trusted to help with VA-related claims). Request a representative.

Or, find your state’s Veterans agency.

More about VA health care eligibility

Jump to a section:

What are priority groups and how do they affect me?

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 health benefit copay rates.

Your priority group will be based on:

  • Your military service history, and
  • Your disability rating, and
  • Your income level, and
  • Whether or not you qualify for Medicaid, and
  • Other benefits you may be receiving (like pension benefits)

We assign Veterans with service-connected disabilities the highest priority. We assign the lowest priority to Veterans who earn a higher income and who don’t have any service-connected disabilities qualifying them for disability compensation (monthly payments).
View the different priority groups.

I have other health insurance (like Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance). Does that affect whether I can get VA health care benefits?

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 I have a less than honorable discharge, can I still get VA health care benefits?

You have 2 options to try to qualify for VA health care benefits:

  • Apply for a discharge upgrade.
    If your application goes through and your discharge is upgraded, you’ll be eligible for the VA benefits you earned during your period of service.
    Find out how to apply for a discharge upgrade.

  • Go through the Character of Discharge review process.
    Even if you don’t get a discharge upgrade, you still may be able to access some VA health care benefits. When you apply, we’ll review your record to determine if your service was “honorable for VA purposes.” This review can take up to a year. Please provide us with documents supporting your case, similar to the evidence you’d send with an application to upgrade your discharge.

    You may want to consider finding someone to advocate on your behalf, depending on the complexity of your case. A lawyer or Veterans Service Organization (VSO) can collect and submit supporting documents for you.
    Find a VSO near you.

Note: You can ask for a VA Character of Discharge review while at the same time applying for a discharge upgrade from the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Coast Guard.

How to get mental health care even without VA health care benefits:

If you experienced sexual assault or harassment while in the military, or need mental health services related to PTSD or other mental health problems linked to your service, you may qualify for VA health benefits even without a VA Character of Discharge review or a discharge upgrade. Call our general VA hotline at (1-800-827-1000), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (ET) to find out what your care options may be.

Learn more about accessing VA health services for:

I need vision care. Can I get it through VA?

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.

I need dental care. Can I get it 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.

I think I may have a service-connected disability. Can I get disability compensation (monthly payments)?

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.

Last updated: