1.1. Basic Eligibility
Basically, you are eligible for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs if:
- You served in the active military, naval or air service,
"Served in the active military, naval or air services" means that you served in the uniformed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard) on active duty. If you were in the Reserves or National Guard AND you received federal orders calling you up for active duty AND you completed the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty, then you may be eligible for VA health care.
National Guard or Reserve duty does not count toward eligibility for VA healthcare if:
- It was ACDUTRA (Active Duty for Training), or
- It was by order of your state's Governor in response to an emergency. (I know this stinks, but your service at the command of the Governor in response to a natural disaster or state emergency does NOT count toward VA health care eligibility.)
- For a period exceeding the minimum duty requirements, depends on when you served in the active duty military.
Most veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, must have served 24 continuous months or the full period for which they were called to active duty to be eligible.
The minimum duty requirement may NOT apply if:
- You were discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty (typically this is known as a service-connected condition),
- You were discharged for a hardship,
- You received an "early out" (typically this is "for the good of the service"), or
- Any part of your service occurred prior to September 7, 1980.
Note: There are a number of other exceptions to the minimum duty requirements, VA encourages all Veterans to apply so that VA can determine your enrollment eligibility if it's not clear.
- Were separated under any condition other than dishonorable,
"Were separated from the service under conditions other than dishonorable" simply means that you did NOT receive a DISHONORABLE DISCHARGE (DD) or a BAD CONDUCT DISCHARGE (BCD). There are many different ways to be discharged or separated from the military. Your separation code can be found on your DD-214. It's Item 26. You'll recall if you received a DD or BCD, because there would have been a court-martial involved. For enlisted personnel, the general court martial would have resulted in a BCD (typically resulting in a confinement to a military prison), which would later be changed to a DD when all appellate reviews are completed. For officers, the general court martial is considered dishonorable if the sentence included "dismissal" from the service.
Like most everything in the VA, there are exceptions to almost every rule, including exceptions for some veterans with DD or BCD who may remain eligible for VA health care. To see if an exception applies to your case, we suggest that you attempt to enroll in VA health care at your nearest VA facility and that you disclose the circumstances surrounding your DD or BCD to the VA's enrollment and eligibility department.
- Are in an eligible priority group designated annually by the Secretary. For Prioity Groups, refer to section 1.2 of Chapter 1.