Health Benefits Are Different for Each Veteran

While all enrolled Veterans enjoy access to VA’s comprehensive medical benefits package, certain benefits (for example, dental care) may vary from individual to individual, depending on each Veteran’s unique eligibility status. This Veterans Health Benefits Guide contains general benefits information.

This includes treating illnesses and injuries, preventing future health problems, improving functional abilities and enhancing quality of life. We provide a full spectrum of medically necessary services, based on the judgment of your VA primary care provider and in accordance with generally accepted standards of clinical practice. These services include:

Preventive Care Services

Health benefits include important preventive care services:

  • Periodic medical exams (including gender-specific exams)
  • Health education, including nutrition education
  • Immunization against infectious disease
  • Counseling on inheritance of genetically determined disease

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

You receive health promotion and disease prevention services from your primary care providers. These services include immunizations to prevent disease, screening tests to detect disease at an early stage, and behavioral counseling to avoid or reduce risk factors for disease. You may also participate in health education programs to help you develop healthy living skills and manage your health problems.

Healthy Living

There has been a lot of research in recent years on the best ways to take care of yourself and stay healthy. We encourage you to make healthy living behaviors part of your daily life.
Talk to your VA provider and check out the following websites:

What are VA’s Health Registries?

VA maintains health registries related to environmental and occupational exposures of U.S. Veterans during military service, including Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) Gulf War, Vietnam, World War II, and atomic test activities. These registries include a free specialized and comprehensive health examination provided by a VA Environmental Health (EH) clinician.
Contact your local EH Coordinator to request information about registry examinations or visit the Environmental Agents Service (EAS) Web site, where you will also find links to newsletters covering related topics:

  • Agent Orange Review
  • Operations Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom Review
  • Gulf War Review
  • Ionizing Radiation Review

Another resource is VA’s toll-free special health issues helpline, 800-749-8387.

Inpatient Care Services

VA inpatient care includes a full spectrum of treatment services:

Inpatient care also includes access to VA’s specialized care units:

  • Intensive Care Units (medical, surgical, mental health, cardiac)
  • Transplant Services
  • Spinal Cord Injury Centers
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • PolyTrauma Centers

Ancillary Services

VA’s health care providers may employ ancillary services to help diagnose or treat your medical condition. These services include:

  • Audiology (hearing)
  • Blind and Vision Rehabilitation
  • Chiropractic Services
  • Dental
  • Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Nutrition and Food Service
  • Nuclear Medicine (imaging)
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Prosthetics (artificial limbs, equipment, devices)
  • Radiology (x-rays and imaging)
  • Radiation Oncology (cancer care)
  • Recreation and Creative Arts Therapies (music, art, dance and drama)
  • Respiratory Therapy
  • Social Work (housing, discharge planning, family support)
  • Speech/Language Pathology (speech, language, voice, fluency, cognition, and swallowing)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Specialty Care Services

Through VA’s specialty care services, you have access to expert knowledge to optimize treatment in unique or complicated courses of care. Our specialty care providers focus on particular areas of care in which they have extensive training and education.

VA medical and surgical specialty care services include:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery)
  • Cardiology – Vascular (heart and blood circulation)
  • Chaplain (spiritual support)
  • Critical Care Specialty
  • Dermatology
  • Diabetes and Endocrinology
  • Geriatric Care
  • Gynecology Care
  • Infectious Disease
  • Nephrology (kidney)
  • Neurology (nerves)
  • Mental Health
  • Oncology (cancer)
  • Optometry & Ophthalmology (eye care)
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Orthotic and Prosthetic (amputee care and custom orthotics)
  • Pacemaker (heart)
  • Pain Management
  • Podiatry (feet)
  • Pulmonary (lungs)
  • Robotic-Assisted Surgery
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Transplant Surgery (heart, lung, liver, etc.)
  • Urology
  • Vascular Surgery
  • Women’s Care

Emergency Care

A medical emergency is generally defined as a condition of such a nature that a prudent layperson would reasonably expect that delay in seeking immediate medical attention would be hazardous to life or health.

You may receive emergency care at a non-VA health care facility at VA expense when a VA facility (or other Federal health care facility with which VA has an agreement):

Cannot furnish economical care due to your distance from the facility; or when VA is unable to furnish the needed emergency services.

VA Payment for Emergency Care of your Service-connected conditions without prior authorization

Since payment may be limited to the point when your condition is stable enough for you to travel to a VA facility, you need to contact the nearest VA medical facility as soon as possible.  An emergency is deemed to have ended at the point when a VA provider has determined that, based on sound medical judgment, you should be transferred from the non-VA facility to a VA medical center.

VA may pay for your non-VA emergency care:

If you are: Then:
Service-connected VA may pay for your non-VA emergency care for a rated Service-connected disability, or for your Nonservice-connected condition associated with and held to be aggravating your Service-connected condition, or any condition, if you are an active participant in the VA Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation program, and you need treatment to make possible your entrance into a course of training or to prevent interruption of a course of training or other approved reason or any condition, if you are rated as having a total disability permanent in nature resulting from your Service-connected disability

VA Payment for Emergency Care of your NonService-connected conditions without prior authorization

VA may pay for emergency care provided in a non-VA facility for treatment of a Nonservice-connected condition only if all of the following conditions are met:

If you are: Then:
Service-connected, not Permanently and Totally Disabled, or Nonservice-connected VA may pay for your non-VA emergency care for treatment of a Nonservice-connected condition if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The episode of care cannot be paid under another VA authority, and
  • Based on an average knowledge of health and medicine (prudent layperson standard) you reasonably expected that delay in seeking immediate medical attention would have been hazardous to your life or health, and
  • A VA or other Federal facility/provider was not feasibly available, and
  • You received VA medical care within a 24-month period preceding the non-VA emergency care, and
  • You are financially liable to the health care provider for the emergency care, and
  • The services were furnished by an Emergency Department or similar facility held out to provide emergency care to the general public, and
  • You have no other coverage under a health plan (including Medicare, Medicaid and Worker’s Compensation), and
  • You have no contractual or legal recourse against a third party that would, in whole, extinguish your liability

Mental Health Care

VA provides specialty inpatient and outpatient mental health services at its medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics (in addition, readjustment counseling services may be available for you and members of your family at Vet Centers across the nation). Our goal is to support recovery and enable Veterans who experience mental health problems to live meaningful lives in their communities and to achieve their full potential.

VA provides cost-free military sexual trauma counseling and referral, including appropriate care and services, to overcome psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault or battery of a sexual nature or from sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was on active duty, or was on Active Duty for Training (ADUTRA).

Mental health services are available in specialty clinics, primary care clinics, nursing homes, and residential care facilities. Specialized programs, such as mental health intensive case management, day centers, work programs and psychosocial rehabilitation are provided for those with serious mental health problems.

The list of services and programs that Mental Health supports include:

  • Inpatient Care
  • Residential Care
  • Outpatient Mental Health Care
  • Homeless Programs
  • Programs for Incarcerated Veterans
  • Specialized PTSD Services
  • Military Sexual Trauma
  • Psychosocial Rehabilitation & Recovery Services
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Suicide Programs
  • Geriatrics
  • Violence Prevention
  • Evidence Based Psychotherapy Programs
  • Mental Health Disaster Response/Post Deployment Activities

Veterans Crisis Line (available to all Veterans regardless of enrollment status)

Pick up the phone and call for immediate help if you notice any of these signs:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself or others.
  • Experiencing an emotional crisis.
  • Hopelessness, feeling like there’s no way out.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
  • Engaging in self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse.

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK (8255). Press 1 for Veterans and someone who can help you will answer right away.

Additional Warning Signs

  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, mood swings.
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live.
  • Extended periods of anger or rage.
  • Engaging in risky activities without thinking.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.