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4.3. VA Medical Care

The VA's health care delivery program is one of the largest integrated health care systems in the nation. The system includes hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers and specialty care centers and clinics. The system is organized in regional groups called "Veterans Integrated Service Networks" (VISN). The VISNs are designed to pool and align resources to better meet local health care needs and provide greater access to care. VA health care is provided in the form of a "medical benefits package," which includes preventative care (e.g., immunizations, examinations, screening, health education programs), hospital care (e.g., emergency inpatient care, inpatient diagnostic testing, surgery, inpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment), outpatient/ambulatory care (e.g., emergency outpatient care, diagnostic testing, medical, surgical, mental health and substance abuse, chiropractic care, and bereavement counseling), as well as prescription medication, equipment and supplies.

Eligibility requirements are based on active duty service in the armed forces. National Guard members and reservists who have been called to active duty are eligible as well. Service members, including Guard and Reserve personnel, who have served on active duty in a theater of combat operations have special eligibility for VA inpatient, outpatient, and nursing home care for two years following their separation from active service.

In order to receive treatment from the VA, veterans must first enroll in the system. The enrollment application (VA Form 10-10EZ) can be obtained from any VA health care facility or regional office. While the VA recommends that all veterans who desire VA medical services formally enroll, there are certain categories of veterans that are automatically eligible for treatment. These include: veterans seeking care for a disability that has already been service-connected, veterans with at least one disability rated at 50% or more, and veterans who, within 12 months of their military discharge, seek care for a disability that the military has determined was incurred in, or aggravated by, military service, but which the VA has not yet rated.

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