The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees pensions, education, health-care and other benefits for veterans and their families, is accused of treatment delays and falsified records at some hospitals.
Q: Where can veterans seek health care?
A: The Veterans Health Administration, by far the VA’s largest arm, operates about 1,700 health-care sites, including medical centers, community clinics and counseling centers. A system that traces its roots to Philadelphia’s Naval Home in 1812 has grown from 54 hospitals in 1930 to 150 medical centers, with at least one in each state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
Q: Who provides care?
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A: The VA health system has more than 275,000 full-time employees.
Q: Who is eligible?
A: Veterans of any military branch, unless they were dishonorably discharged, and reservists and National Guard members in some cases. Dependents and children of veterans also can receive benefits. The VA system saw 5.5 million patients in 2008; that grew to 6.5 million in 2012-13. The VA estimates the U.S. has more than 21 million veterans; vets of Vietnam are the largest group.
Q: Is health care free?
A: Health care is free for some veterans, including those whose incomes are low, former prisoners of war and those with severe disabilities as a result of service. Veterans who served in a combat zone are eligible for free VA hospital care, outpatient services and nursing-home care for two years after leaving active duty because of an illness or injury that may be linked to service. For others, copay charges are $15 for a basic visit and $50 to see a specialist such as a surgeon or for certain tests. The copay for a stay at the hospital can be as low as $236 for the first 90 days.
Q: What does it cost the U. S.?
A: The VA’s medical-care budget was about $55.6 billion in fiscal 2013 and is estimated at $57.3 billion this year. The 2015 estimate is nearly $60 billion.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, www.va.gov.