Please note that this chapter has been removed. There have been a number of significant changes to this program since 2016. We we will update and revise this chapter and republish it as soon as possible.
Veterans’ health care benefits date back prior to the American Revolution, where different colonies provided for any disabled soldier wounded while defending the colony. In 1776, the Continental Congress established disability pensions (now called Disability Compensation) for veterans who became disabled during military service and individual states and communities provided direct medical and hospital care for veterans during this time.
The first Federal agency to provide medical care to veterans was the Naval Home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, created in 1812 and followed by the creation of Soldiers Home in 1853 and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in 1855. Congress created the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1865 in response to the high number of Civil War casualties.
President Hoover created the Veterans Administration (VA) in 1930 to consolidate all veteran services.
In 1988, President Reagan signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, which elevated the VA to Cabinet-level, then becoming known as the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the Veterans Health Administration
In 1930, Congress authorized the establishment of the Veterans Administration to consolidate and coordinate government activities affecting veterans. Congress also created many new benefits for veterans after World War II because the number of veterans needing assistance grew significantly.
In 1996, Congress passed the Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act, which became effective October 1, 1998. This law created the Medical Benefits Package plan available to all veterans in hospitals or other medical facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system.
ADMINISTRATION AND FUNDING
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) administers VA health care. Day-to-day health care services are managed by the VA’s Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). There are 21 of these geographically designated networks across the country. New York City is in VISN 3, which also includes parts of New Jersey. VA Health Care is funded through appropriations from Congress.
Summary of Veteran’s Health Care
In general, the VA provides a comprehensive benefits package to veterans covering in-patient and outpatient services, basic dental care, home health care, prescription drug coverage, long term health care, and much more. The VA will cover care or services prescribed by a VA provider. In some cases the VA may authorize care by a non-VA provider.
Veterans may enroll in person at any VA facility, by mail, or online.