If you served in a combat theater of operations after
November 11, 1998, you may be eligible to receive free or reduced-cost health care
for a period of five years immediately following your active duty discharge,
regardless of whether your medical needs are deemed service-connected. This is thanks to enhanced eligibility
criteria under the federal VA’s “Combat Veteran” authority, which allows
returning combat veterans to enroll in the VA health care system at a
higher-than-basic Priority Group, where you will have full access to the VA’s
medical benefits package.
The 5-year enrollment period begins on the date you separated
from active duty, or, if a reservist or national guardsman with multiple
call-ups, on your most recent discharge date. Eligibility for VA health care is
normally contingent upon other factors such as a service-connected disability
or a veteran’s financial circumstances; thus, combat veterans are strongly
encouraged to apply for enrollment within their 5-year enhanced eligibility
period, even if no medical care is currently needed.
Veterans, including members of the National Guard
and activated reservists, who served on active duty in a theater of combat
operations after November 11, 1998, and
have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
Theaters of combat operations during this time period
include locales related to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom,
Operation New Dawn, as well as numerous other areas of hostilities and/or
imminent danger. For a complete list see here.
Benefits include enrollment in Priority Group 6 or higher, eligibility
for Choice Card Program, federal VA dental benefits, and more.
For more information: Federal VA: Health Benefits for Returning Service Members