Jacob Gadd, deputy cirector for Healthcare for The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, recently received an update from the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Public Health's Environmental Epidemiology Service on the numbers of transitioning veterans that have enrolled in VA for health care. Since 2002 through the second quarter of fiscal 2011, 1,318,510 Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) veterans have left active duty and become eligible for VA health care. Of these, 683,521 (52 percent) have obtained VA health care since fiscal 2002. Of the cumulative total of 683,521 OEF/OIF/OND veterans who utilized VA health care between fiscal 2002 and the second quarter of Ffiscal 2011, 431,453 veterans accessed this care from April 2010 to April 2011.
Some of the demographic characteristics of OEF/OIF/OND veterans utilizing VA health care are: 88.1 percent are male, 45.3 percent were born between 1980-1995, 54.7 percent were active duty, 61 percent were Army veterans and 91.2 percent were enlisted.
The increase of enrolled veterans can be attributed to several factors, including the ability to submit VA Form 10-10EZ, "Application for Health Benefits," online without a signature requirement for processing at the Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta. Another factors is the five-year combat veteran rule. Veterans, including activated reservists and members of the National Guard, are eligible for Combat Veteran Eligibility if they served on active duty in a theater of operations after Nov. 11, 1998, and have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. Under the Combat Veteran authority, cost-free care and medications are provided to veterans for conditions potentially related to combat services.
The Veterans Health Administration is responsible for more than 1,300 sites of VA-related health-care facilities, including 153 VA medical centers, 965 ambulatory care and community based outpatient clinics, and 278 readjustment counseling (Vet) Centers across the country. Veterans have to enroll for VHA health care and based on their eligibility status are assigned to one of VA's eight priority groups. If veterans have a Veterans Benefits Administration service-connected disability of 50 percent or more or need care for a compensable disability, they are eligible for cost-free medical care for those conditions.
A veteran may apply for enrollment at any VA health-care facility or veterans benefits office at any time. A form, "Application for Health Benefits,"  VA Form 10-10EZ, is available online. The form can be completed online and mailed to the Health Eligibility Center. More information is available by calling VA toll-free at (877) 222-8387.
For questions on VA enrollment and eligibility for health care, please contact the Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division Health Care Policy Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org  or by phone at (202) 861-2700.