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Health Benefits


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Access VA Health Benefits

Access Health Benefits 

Medical Benefits Package

Today's Veterans receive a Medical Benefits Package, which VA administers through a patient enrollment program. Along with your enrollment in the VA health care system comes the assurance that health and treatment services will be available when and where you need them.

Accessing VA Healthcare Services

VA strives to ensure that you have access to all of your needed services wherever you receive your VA health care. This may be on-site during inpatient hospitalization, at one of our primary or specialty care clinics, at a Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), in a Community Living Center (formerly known as a VA nursing home), or in a residential care facility. However, all services may not be available at every location.

Sometimes, you may need to travel to another VA facility or a community care facility to receive the necessary treatment. If that is the case, your VA provider will work with you to find the place best suited for you to obtain the required services.

Scheduling an Appointment and Canceling Appointments

Enrolled Veterans

If you are enrolled in VA health benefits, call your primary care/specialty clinic during regular business hours to:

  • make an appointment
  • change an appointment, or
  • cancel an appointment.

If you know you cannot keep an existing appointment, please contact the facility to reschedule or cancel as soon as possible. Contact information is available in the VA Facility Directory

What if I just walk-in without a scheduled appointment?

Although we will evaluate your condition if you decide to "walk in" to a primary care clinic without a scheduled appointment, you may have a wait, depending on the severity of your medical situation.

Can I cancel my VA health care coverage?

Yes. However, acceptance for future VA health care coverage will be based on eligibility factors at the time of application, which may result in a denial of health care coverage.

Active Duty Servicemembers

Under certain circumstances, active duty service members may receive limited health benefits and health care services at VA medical centers through sharing agreements.

Veteran Choice Program

Non-VA Provider Health Care
Enrolled Veterans, have the option to receive care by a non-VA health care provider closer to home rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling long distance to a VA facility. The VA Choice Program temporarily authorizes you to receive health care from non-VA providers.

You can enjoy the benefits, if these conditions apply to you:

  • Enrolled before August 1, 2014
  • Wait times for VA care exceed 30 days from the desired care date or the date medically determined by your physician 
  • Non-VA care is prescribed by a VA provider
  • Live more than 40 miles from to the nearest VA care site – VAMC, community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC), etc
  • Live less than 40 miles from a VA medical facility, but face an unusual or excessive burden in getting there because of geographical challenges or must travel by air, boat, or ferry to reach such a facility 
  • Live in a state without full-service VA medical facilities that provides hospital care, emergency service and surgical care, and reside more than 20 miles from such facility.

Non-VA care is only covered by VA for medical needs that have been approved by your VA physician. If you choose to use the Choice Card, please coordinate your pre-approved care by calling 1-866-606-8198.

Interpreter Services

If you think foreign language (or American Sign Language) services would help you or your family understand your medical or health care benefits, contact your Patient Advocate.

Social Work Services

VA social workers are assigned to all patient treatment programs, including community-based outpatient clinics . They provide social and clinical services to Veterans and their families in resolving the social, emotional, and economic problems associated with the stresses of illness. Social workers bring skills in individual, group, and family treatment to the care of Veteran patients as they move through the continuum of care.

VA Social Work Service has responsibility for the Fisher House Program, the Temporary Lodging Program, policies on reporting suspected abuse and neglect, and family support for polytrauma patients. For more information, you can contact your local Social Work Service Office.

Urgent and After-Hours Care

If you need non-emergency care, call the after-hours telephone advice care line to get advice about your health concerns. The advice line is staffed by registered nurses who will discuss your medical concerns and work with you to determine the care you need. The registered nurse will document the telephone call in your electronic medical record and notify the appropriate medical provider.

What if I Require a Hospital Admission?

Your VA provider will make appropriate arrangements to admit you to the nearest VA hospital that is adequately equipped and staffed to furnish the care you need. Depending on your eligibility and other factors, VA may admit you to a non-VA hospital.

Emergency Care

What if I think I am having a medical emergency?

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You do not have to contact VA in advance.

What is a medical emergency?

A medical emergency is generally defined as a condition that would cause a prudent layperson (a person who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine) to reasonably expect that a delay in seeking immediate medical attention would be hazardous to life or health.

Non-VA Facilities

You should go to the nearest emergency room whether in a VA or private facility If you are in an ambulance, the paramedics will usually take you to the closest emergency room.

If the doctor wants to admit me to the non-VA hospital, must I obtain approval from VA?

  • If the admission is for a medical emergency – NO
  • If the admission is not for a medical emergency - YES . You, a friend, a family member, or someone from the non-VA hospital should call the closest VA medical center and speak to the patient transfer or patient administration representative within 72 hours of your arrival at the emergency room . You will be offered a transfer to VA if a VA bed is available and you can be safely transferred.

Does my enrollment in the VA Health Care System change my coverage for emergency care?

It might. Call your local VA facility’s Enrollment Coordinator to find out what your options are.

Does my other insurance (TRICARE, Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross, etc.) change my VA coverage for emergency services?

It might. Call your local VA facility’s Enrollment Coordinator to find out what your options are.

Veterans Health Care Coverage and Medicare

Enrolled Veterans receive VA’s comprehensive medical benefits package. VA can provide care for all your health care needs. Click here (you will be routed to the AARP Website) for information about VA health care enrollment and Medicare coverage.

Q. I have good medical coverage from the Veterans Affairs health program. Do I need to enroll in Medicare as well when I turn 65?

A. Click here (you will be routed to the AARP Website).