Combat Veteran Health Care Eligibility

VA doctor with patient

Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998 are eligible for an extended period of eligibility for health care for 5 years post discharge.

Under the "Combat Veteran" authority, the VA provides health care services and community living care for any condition possibly related to the veteran's service in a combat theater. The VA will automatically enroll the veteran in Priority Group 6, unless eligible for enrollment in a higher priority group.

For details on healthcare priority groups see our VA Healthcare: Priority Groups page.

Who is Eligible for the Combat Veteran Expanded Health Care Eligibility?

Veterans, including activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, are eligible if they served on active duty in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, and have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

The 5-year enrollment period begins on the date the veteran left the service, or in the case of multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date.

Documentation Used To Determine Service in a Theater Of Combat Operations

  • Military service documentation that reflects service in a combat theater, or
  • Receipt of combat service medals, and/or
  • Receipt of combat tax exemption, imminent danger or hostile fire pay

Health Benefits Under The Combat Veteran Authority

Veterans who enroll in VA healthcare under the Combat Veteran Authority are eligible for VA medical care and medications provided for conditions potentially related to combat service and are enrolled in Priority Group 6 unless eligible for enrollment in a higher priority group.

They receive full access to VA's medical benefits package.


Veterans who qualify under this special eligibility do not have to pay copays for conditions potentially related to their combat service.

However, they may have to disclose their prior year's gross household income if they wish to receive free medical care for conditions that are not related to their military service. If they do not, they may have to make a copay.

What Happens After The Enhanced Eligibility Period Ends?

Veterans who enroll with VA under this authority will continue to be enrolled even after their enhanced eligibility period ends. At the end of their enhanced eligibility period, they may be shifted to a lower priority group depending on their individual situation, and may be required to make applicable copays.

What Happens to Combat Veterans Who Do Not Enroll During The Enhanced Authority Period?

For veterans who do not enroll during their enhanced eligibility period, eligibility for enrollment and subsequent care is based on other factors such as: a compensable service-connected disability, or their financial circumstances. For this reason, combat veterans are strongly encouraged to apply for enrollment within their enhanced eligibility period, even if no medical care is currently needed.

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