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How does VA healthcare work?

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The lowdown...
  • You apply for VA benefits over the phone, at the VA website, or at your local VA facility
  • If you were not dishonorably discharged, you are likely eligible for VA benefits
  • Applications for enrollment will be processed within five business days whenever possible

Caring for our veterans is one of the most important parts of our healthcare system. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs is in charge of taking care of our veterans’ every need.

Since many veterans are older now, their healthcare is even more vital now than it was in the past.

Of course, a great number of veterans are also suffering from physical or psychological damage that they received during their time in service.

Addressing this damage is also an obligation of our healthcare system and we should endeavor to do so to the very best of our ability so our veterans are not neglected.

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What is the VA?

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When discussing the VA, perhaps it is best to define exactly what we are analyzing. VA is the abbreviated title for the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which handles all matters relating to our veterans.

The VA operates in all fifty states to ensure that all veterans across the country are treated well.

In addition to handling the healthcare concerns of the veterans, the VA also works to help them integrate back into our society.

One way they do so is by helping veterans find gainful employment.

Applying for Enrollment in VA Healthcare

You can apply for VA healthcare in any of these ways:

  • phone
  • online
  • in person

If you are a veteran who served combat after the 11th of November, 1998, you can fill out an application for enrollment in the VA healthcare program using the telephone without signing a traditional paper enrollment.

If you served prior to this date, you will be eligible to apply for VA healthcare via telephone as well.

Applying online is also an option to enroll in VA healthcare. Simply fill out the online application and submit it electronically to the VA so that they can process the application.

Neither this method nor the telephone method requires a signature. Applying in person is also allowed where you fill out the online application then submit it in person at your local VA healthcare location.

The VA also welcomes veterans who apply for enrollment with the “Welcome to VA” program.

This program involves personalized phone calls upon enrollment, offering help with any questions about the health care, and aiding the veteran with the first appointment at their local VA health care facility.

The VA also sends an introductory letter as well as a handbook about veterans health benefits to every newly enrolled veteran.

The Application Process for VA Healthcare

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If your application for enrollment is approved, the VA will call you in order to help you set up your initial VA healthcare consultation. The VA will also do their utmost to answer any questions you might have regarding your healthcare benefits.

Once enrolled, you will receive a handbook with information about your copay status, health care benefits, and more.

In the event you cannot be enrolled or the enrollment decision is one that you disagree with, appealing the decision is an option for you. The VA will tell you if you cannot be enrolled.

Any letter that you receive in the event that you cannot be enrolled will have further information and instructions regarding your ability to appeal the decision. This is an avenue that you can pursue if you do not agree with the VA’s decision.

Veterans Eligibility

A person that served in active military service and was discharged or released in any circumstance aside from a dishonorable discharge is a veteran.

This is the definition used for consideration in VA services and health benefits according to Veteran’s Eligibility, which outlines eligibility requirements. If this description describes you, it is possible that you qualify for VA health care benefits.

Minimum Duty Requirements

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If you are a veteran who enlisted following September 10, 1980, or entered status as an active duty soldier later than October 16, 1981, you are required to have served 24 months continuously or the full period of your active duty service according to Minimum Duty Requirements.

Otherwise, you are not eligible for access to VA health care services. Here are some exceptions to this requirement:

  • veterans who were discharged due to a disability sustained during duty
  • veterans who served before September 10, 1980
  • veterans who were discharged due to hardship or those who had an early out

There are more exceptions to the minimum duty requirements and thus all veterans are encouraged to apply.

Enhanced Eligibility

Enhanced eligibility classification may be granted to certain veterans when they are enrolling in or applying to enroll in the VA healthcare system according to Enhanced Eligibility.

Veterans with enhanced eligibility status include the following:

  • veterans who were prisoners of war
  • veterans who received the Purple Heart Medal
  • veterans who received the Medal of Honor
  • veterans who were discharged from the military due to a disability
  • veterans who served in an area called a Theater of Operations for a period of five years following their discharge
  • service in the Republic of Vietnam from January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975

Pending VA Health Care Applications

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The VA strives to finish processing all enrollment applications for the purposes of obtaining VA health care in five business days or less according to Pending Applications.

In the event that the health care application is considered complete, it is processed and the enrollment decision is mailed to the applicant.

In the event that the application is incomplete, the application is considered pending.

During that time, the VA will seek to find any missing information in their databases or receiving that information from the Department of Defense or the veteran themselves.

Accessing VA Health Care Benefits

Enrolled veterans can call their specialty clinic or primary care facility during business hours to schedule an appointment, alter an appointment, or cancel a previous appointment according to Accessing VA Health Benefits, which describes the process.

If you are certain you cannot make it to an appointment, it is best to reschedule the appointment as soon as possible.

Walk-ins to a primary care VA facility are an option. However, doing so without scheduling an appointment might mean you have to wait. In most cases, your best bet is to make an appointment so you know you will get into to receive whatever care you need.

The VA healthcare system is quite intricate and complicated. There are many regulations regarding who is eligible to be enrolled in the VA health care system and who is not eligible.

Additionally, there are different levels of eligibility as previously mentioned.

Minimum duty requirements are another regulation that is part of the VA healthcare system. It is used to further determine who is considered a veteran more specifically.

The VA seeks to process all applications as quickly as possible so that our veterans are all able to get the health care they need with minimum hassle.

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