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Military Benefits

VA Health Care Eligibility Expansion


Effective March 5, 2024, all Veterans exposed to toxins and other hazards, such as Agent Orange and burn pits, while serving in the military at home or abroad can enroll directly in VA Health Care without first applying for VA benefits. The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act) signed into law on August 10, 2022, contained amendments expanding VA Health Care eligibility that were scheduled to be phased-in by 2032, but allowed the VA to accelerate the schedule, which it has now done. 

This expansion affects three specific cohort groups: 

  • Cohort 1: Veterans who never deployed but were involved in toxic exposure risk activity (TERA) at home or abroad as defined by law, while serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. For more information on military exposure categories, visit publichealth.va.gov/exposures/
  • Cohort 2: Veterans assigned to a duty station in (and including airspace above) certain locations during specific periods of time: 
    • On or after August 2, 1990, in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, or the United Arab Emirates. 
    • On or after September 11, 2001, in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Uzbekistan or any other country determined relevant by VA (currently no other countries). 
  • Cohort 3: Veterans who deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Inherent Resolve, and Resolute Support Mission. 

VA has conducted a campaign — the largest outreach in VA history — to reach as many Veterans as possible to enroll. 

Eligible Veterans may receive hospital care, including mental health services and counseling, medical services, and nursing home care through the VA and will be assigned to Priority Group 6, unless eligible for a higher Priority Group. If you are already enrolled in VA Health Care with a Priority Group of 7 or 8, you may be eligible for a higher Priority Group, if one of these cohort groups applies to you. 

You are exempt from copayments for VA medical care and medications if it is related to your qualifying service. You will, however, have copayments if your medical care is determined to be unrelated to your qualifying service. 

Veterans enrolled with VA Health Care will not need to act as the VA is reviewing records and will upgrade your Priority Group and notify you of the change. If you meet the eligibility criteria and have not been notified by VA of your Priority Group change, you’ll need to complete and submit a Health Benefits Update Form, VA 10-10EZR. There is no time limit to submit copies of additional supporting documentation, but you should do so as soon as possible. Cohort 1 supporting documentation includes information on the details of your exposure. Cohorts 2 and 3 supporting documentation includes DD-214, service records and military orders. For more information see va.gov/health-care/update-health-information/

To apply for VA Health Care, visit va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply/. For more information, see the VA’s PACT Act specific webpage va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/.  

If you need assistance with the VA Health Care expansion, call 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411), option 8.  

This article was originally published October 7, 2015.