Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 are eligible for an extended period of eligibility for health care for 5 years post discharge.
Under the "Combat Veteran" authority, the VA provides health care services and community living care for any condition possibly related to the veterans's service in a combat theater. The VA will automatically enroll the veteran in Priority Group 6, unless eligible for enrollment in a higher priority group. For details on healthcare priority groups see our VA Healthcare: Priority Groups page.
Combat Veterans who were discharged or released from active service on or after January 28, 2003, are eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for 5 years from the date of discharge or release. The 5-year enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the service member from active duty military service, or in the case of multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date.
Combat Veterans, while not required to disclose their income information, may do so to determine their eligibility for a higher priority status, beneficiary travel benefits, and exemption of copays for care unrelated to their military service.
Who is Eligible for the Combat Veteran Expanded Health Care Eligibility?
Veterans, including activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, are eligible if they served on active duty in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, and have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
Documentation Used To Determine Service in a Theater Of Combat Operations
- Military service documentation that reflects service in a combat theater, or
- Receipt of combat service medals, and/or
- Receipt of combat tax exemption, imminent danger or hostile fire pay
Health Benefits Under The Combat Veteran Authority
Veterans who enroll in VA healthcare under the Combat Veteran Authority are eligible for VA medical care and medications provided for conditions potentially related to combat serviceand are enrolled in Priority Group 6 unless eligible for enrollment in a higher priority group. They receive full access to VA's medical benefits package.
Veterans who qualify under this special eligibility are not subject to copays for conditions potentially related to their combat service. However, unless otherwise exempted, combat Veterans must either disclose their prior year gross household income OR decline to provide their financial information and agree to make applicable copays for care or services VA determines are clearly unrelated to their military service.
What Happens After The Enhanced Eligibility Period Ends?
Veterans who enroll with VA under this authority will continue to be enrolled even after their enhanced eligibility period ends. At the end of their enhanced eligibility period, veterans enrolled in Priority Group 6 may be shifted to a lower priority group depending on their income level, and required to make applicable copays.
What Happens to Combat Veterans Who Do Not Enroll During The Enhanced Authority Period?
For veterans who do not enroll during their enhanced eligibility period, eligibility for enrollment and subsequent care is based on other factors such as: a compensable service-connected disability, or their financial circumstances. For this reason, combat veterans are strongly encouraged to apply for enrollment within their enhanced eligibility period, even if no medical care is currently needed.