Overview of VA Benefits Series: Part 1: Health Care and Life Insurance

Thanks to our twitter follower @Rmart73 for the request sparking the idea for this article series.  We often discuss the benefits available to disabled veterans, but overlook the many millions of non disabled veterans who are also out there.  There are VA benefits that are available and have no contingency upon a disability determination.  Here are some of those benefits.  Take note, the most basic eligibility requirement is that a veteran has received a discharge of anything other that what the VA considers dishonorable.  For some who received a discharge designated “other than honorable,” this does not immediately constitute a dishonorable designation.  In this case the VA will look over your discharge circumstances and make a decision.

Part 1: Health Care and Life Insurance

Part 2: Education, Including Vocational Rehabilitation

Part 3: VA Home Loans

Part 4: Upgrading a Discharge Designation

Health Care and Life Insurance

A common misconception is that only veterans who have been medically discharged from the military and received a disability rating are eligible to receive health care from the VA.  Once upon a day, even I thought this, I hope anyone to whom I told this has the grace to overlook the mistake.  The reality is that yes, most veterans who receive health care from the VA are disabled veterans.  This is because of the priority system that the VA uses to distribute their supply of resources which grossly under-fulfills the sizable need and demand from veterans.

Basic eligibility include, of course, an other than dishonorable discharge, and a minimum period of service.  For any veteran who enlisted after September 7th, 1980, that service period is 24 months.  Special exceptions to this include discharge for hardship or disability incurrence or aggravation.  Reservists who were activated after October 16th, 1981 must either have been active for a minimum of 24 months or the entire duration of activation, if it was less than 24 months.  In any case, the 24 months must be continuous.

The priority groups which the VA places veterans into is probably the best explanation as to why the rumor is that only disabled veterans receive VA health care.  When resources cannot supply the full demand for health care, the higher numbered priority groups are blocked from new enrollment.  If this happens, the VA publishes the changes, and informs the individual veterans affected.

Priority 1.

Veterans who have been awarded a 50% or higher disability rating, and veterans whom the VA deemed unemployable due to a service related condition.

Priority 2.

Veterans who have been awarded a 30% – 40% disability rating.

Priority 3.

Veterans who have been awarded a 10% – 20% disability rating. Veterans who are former POW, were awarded a Purple Heart Medal, whose discharge was due to a disability incurred or aggravated by service, and veterans who received eligibility due to disability incurred or aggravated by VA treatment or participation in Vocational Rehabilitation.

Priority 4.

Veterans receiving Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits, and veterans determined to be “catastrophically” disabled.

Priority 5.

Veterans receiving pension benefits or are eligible for Medicaid.  Veterans with non service connected disabilities or service connected disabilities rated at 0% whose income or net worth are below the VA’s national income threshold.

Priority 6.

Veterans of WWI.  Veterans seeking treatment for exposure to ionizing radiation due to atmospheric testing or occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Veterans seeking treatment for exposure incurred from DoD testing in relation to Project 112/Project SHAD.  Veterans who are 0% disability rated and are receiving disability compensation.  Veterans who served in a theatre of combat operations after November 11th, 1998 and fall into one of the two following categories:

1. Veterans discharged from active duty on or after Jan. 28, 2003, who enrolled in VA Health Care by Jan. 28, 2008 and veterans who apply for enrollment after Jan. 28, 2008, within their 5 year window following discharge.

2. Veterans discharged from active duty before Jan. 28, 2003, who apply for enrollment after Jan. 28, 2008, until Jan. 27, 2011.

Priority 7.

Veterans whose gross income is lower than the VA income threshold, and agree to pay co-pays.

Priority 8.

Veterans whose income is higher than the VA income threshold, and agree to pay co-pays.

Initially applying for enrollment is fairly simple.  Veterans can fill out VA Form 10 – 10EZ, which is most efficiently done online.  Veterans can also call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) and apply over the phone.

Women veterans should not think that the VA does not provide health care specific to women and therefore decide not to apply.  The VA has recognized that women who serve in our military deserve nothing less than the men who serve.  That includes any health care needs specific to women.  Much more detail about VA health care available to women can be found at the Women Veterans Health Care page.

Other health care programs, outside of the generalized “medical health care” include mental health care services, readjustment counseling services, prosthetic and sensory aids, services for blind and visually impaired veterans, work restoration therapeutic programs, residential mental health care treatment programs, and nursing home care.  Dental care is available only in very specific circumstances.


VA Life Insurance

The VA provides life insurance to service members and veterans because the risks involved with military service or associated with a service related condition make private life insurance companies deny coverage.

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance

VGLI is the converted form of SGLI (Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance) after the veteran has separated from active duty.  Enrollment in SGLI prior to separation is an eligibility criteria for VGLI.  Coverage is available in $10,000 increments, up to $400,000, but cannot exceed the amount for which SGLI coverage was purchased.  Premiums are based upon age.

If you are considering converting your SGLI into VGLI or picking up life insurance from another carrier, this informational table, with a nifty column for entering information about other carriers you are considering may help you decide which coverage better meets your needs.

Applications for VGLI must be submitted within one year and 120 days from date of separations.  Veterans who apply prior to the first 120 days after separation need no proof of good health, but veterans who apply after the first 120 days will need to supply proof of good health.


Photo thanks to seiuhealthcare775nw under creative common license on Flickr.

3 thoughts on “Overview of VA Benefits Series: Part 1: Health Care and Life Insurance”

  1. I believe you forgot to mention that Post-9/11 veterans are eligible for 5 years of no-cost VA Health Care upon leaving military service. Qualified veterans fall under category 6. The 1010-EZ has a section to list this.

    Also, it is better to enroll in-person at a veteran’s preferred VA health clinic (rather than online or by phone). I went through this process both on the phone (twice) and attempted the online submission, to no avail. Enrolling in-person (and submitting one’s DD214) seems the best option.

    Also, a one-time no-cost dental examination is included if a veteran’s DD214 denotes that the veteran did not receive a discharge dental exam.

  2. The core benefit of life insurance is that the financial interests of one’s family remain protected from circumstances such as loss of income due to critical illness or death of the policyholder.

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