Veterans who deployed to a combat zone after 9/11 (and before Oct 1, 2013) have until midnight Sept. 30 to enroll directly in VA health care through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) without first applying for VA disability benefits.
Why does this deadline matter? After 9/11, VA officials knew they would have to prioritize VHA access in anticipation of a significant number of veterans needing care. This led to “means testing”: Veterans with incomes above the poverty level where they resided would be characterized as Priority Group 8, a group that's been precluded from VHA services since 2003.
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act created a special enrollment period for post-9/11 combat veterans, allowing them to enroll directly in VA health care without applying for VA benefits.
Veterans who served in combat against a hostile force "during a period of hostilities" after Nov. 11, 1998, also are eligible, according to a VA press release announcing the deadline. Veterans must have left active duty before Oct. 1, 2013, to be covered by the special enrollment period; those who deployed to a combat zone, never enrolled in VA health care and left active duty on or after Oct. 1, 2013, can enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for disability benefits within the first 10 years after leaving service.
[PACT ACT ANNIVERSARY: VA Officials Discuss First-Year Data and Path Forward]
Eligible veterans without a disability rating who apply before the Sept. 30 deadline will receive a minimum Priority Group rating of PG6, which would allow access to VA services.
More to Know
- Veterans and survivors can learn more about PACT Act-related benefits, including eligibility and application details, at VA.gov/PACT.
- Some veterans who are ineligible for the special registration period may still be eligible for VA benefits. Visit the VA's website for details.
- MOAA always recommends using a veterans service organization when dealing with the VA; VSOs provide claim and appeal services free of charge. You are under no obligation to join their group, although they are allowed to ask if you care to join. You can search for an accredited VSO near you, and visit your state's Department of Veteran Services website to find out if you can access a county veterans service officer (CVSO).
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