How Guard and Reserve Veterans Can Get Support from VA
Members of the National Guard and reserve provide a unique service to our nation by serving as both citizens and warriors. To ensure that these service members receive the best possible care after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a specialized set of benefits and services. Warriors who have served in the National Guard or reserve can use the information below to find out how to begin receiving care and benefits from VA.
How VA Reaches Out to National Guard and Reserve Veterans of OEF/OIF/OND
1. Demobilization Initiative
Since 2008, VA has worked with each of the military services to present a face-to-face program informing demobilizing reserve veterans of their enhanced VA health care and dental benefits during mandatory demobilization briefings. During these events, VA employees offer new veterans opportunities to enroll into VA health care and provide contact information about the OEF/OIF program manager at the VA Medical Center closest to their home.
2. Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program
Get Additional Support from Veteran Service OrganizationsVeterans returning from combat environments in Iraq and Afghanistan have found particularly helpful assistance through veteran service organizations. These groups specialize in providing resources and assistance to service members following deployment, and help bring individuals with similar experiences together. They also provide assistance with paperwork for benefits. To learn more about these organizations visit the National Resource Directory for a listing of chartered and non-chartered veteran service organizations.6
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is available to all members of the reserve and National Guard, as well as their families. The program offers events at all phases of deployment — from pre-mobilization to deployment to post-deployment. VA staff provides warriors and their families with information on benefits and health services, enrolls veterans in VA health care and coordinates referrals to other VA services. (Read the Real Warriors article “Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program: Support for Guard and Reserve”.)
3. Combat Veteran Call Center
VA launched the Combat Veteran Call Center in 2008 to provide OEF/OIF/OND combat veterans with a VA telephone contact. Veterans are contacted directly by phone, and receive information about VA benefits, services and employment opportunities. They are also offered the opportunity to be assigned a care manager at their local VA Medical Center.
4. National Guard Transition Assistance Advisors
In 2005, VA and the National Guard developed a unique partnership to ensure that OEF/OIF/OND combat veterans have access to coordinated VA services and benefits as they transition home to their communities in each state, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. The National Guard hired 62 National Guard Transition Assistance Advisors to serve as VA liaisons in the field at the state level and to assist warriors and their families in coordinating state community and VA benefits and services.
5. Individual Ready Reserve Muster
Get Additional Support from State Directors of VAVeterans can also receive assistance from the State Directors of Veterans Affairs. This state office can offer you additional assistance and information about new state benefits, community services and country services officers to assist you in filing a disability claim or other federal benefits. There is also a Women Veterans Coordinator to assist all female veterans in each state.
VA informs former active duty Individual Ready Reserve members of their enhanced VA health care and dental benefits during their mandatory muster events. During these events, VA staff members offer enrollment into VA health care to Individual Ready Reserve members. Veterans also receive contact information for the OEF/OIF program manager at their local VA Medical Center, who can help them set up their initial health and dental appointments.
Am I Eligible to Receive VA Benefits?
The programs descried above are designed to include information on eligibility for VA health care benefits, but if you have additional questions you can visit the VA Health Care Eligibility and Enrollment website1 or call VA. Generally, you are eligible for VA health care benefits if you are:
- A member of the reserve or National Guard and you were called to active duty by federal order
- A veteran
- A veteran's dependent
- A surviving spouse, child or parent of a deceased veteran
What Can VA Do For Me?
For members of the National Guard and reserve who are entering the VA system for the first time, it is important to understand the services that will be made available. VA provides a number of health care services for OEF/OIF/OND veterans that include:
- Hospital, outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and prosthetic services.
- Domiciliary and community-based residential care.
- Sexual trauma counseling.
- Specialized health care for female veterans.
- Health and rehabilitation programs for homeless veterans.
- Readjustment counseling.
- Alcohol and drug dependency treatment.
- Medical evaluation for disorders associated with military service in OEF/OIF/OND.2
VA Liaisons Ease Transitions from Military Treatment Facilities
The VA Liaison Program now has 27 liaisons serving at 13 military treatment facilities. These liaisons facilitate the transfer of care of severely injured warriors from military treatment facilities into VA, including VA’s polytrauma rehabilitation centers. In addition, liaisons contact local VA OEF/OIF care management teams when an ill or injured warrior is in need of VA care near their home.3 Liaisons also ensure that transitioning warriors are screened for the need for a care manager, obtain any needed VA appointments, develop a care plan and understand who to contact at their local VA Medical Center for additional assistance.
Care Management Teams Ease Transitions into VA Medical Centers
Every VA Medical Center has an OEF/OIF care management team ready to welcome veterans and help coordinate their care. Specifically, OEF/OIF program managers and care managers are nurses or social workers who coordinate patient care activities and help injured and ill members of the National Guard and reserve navigate their way through the VA health care system. A transition patient advocate acts as a personal advocate to those ill and injured reserve or National Guard members who are in need of assistance obtaining appointments and accessing the VA health care system. To contact the OEF/OIF care management team, contact your local VA Medical Center.
Understanding How VA Health Care is Organized
Veterans Health Administration
The Veterans Health Administration is the VA component that provides health care at more than 1,500 sites throughout the country. Together, these health care facilities and the more than 53,000 independent licensed health care practitioners who work within them provide comprehensive care to more than 8.3 million veterans each year.4
VA Health Care Sites
VA health care facilities are located across the country and range from small, local clinics to large hospitals. These health care facilities provide care through a nationwide network of 152 hospitals, 803 community-based outpatient clinics, 133 VA community living centers, six independent outpatient clinics and 98 residential rehabilitation centers.5
VA Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling and outreach services at no cost to all veterans who served in any combat zone. Services are also available for their family members for military-related issues. The 288 community-based Vet Centers are staffed by small multi-disciplinary teams of dedicated providers, many of whom are combat veterans themselves.5 Staff are available 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387).
- If you have questions about traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological health issues, contact the DCoE Outreach Center by calling 866-966-1020 or logging on to Real Warriors Live Chat
- Connect with other veterans of the National Guard and Reserve at the Real Warriors message boards
- VA’s website for service members returning from OEF/OIF
- Reserve and National Guard (Chapter 8); Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents; 2012 Edition
- VA Form 10-10EZ for enrolling into VA health care
1"How Do I Get Help?" Returning Service Members (OEF/OIF), United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Oct. 26, 2012.
2"What Can VA Do For Me?" Returning Service Members (OEF/OIF), United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Oct. 26, 2012.
3"Welcome Home and Outreach" Returning Service Members (OEF/OIF), United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Oct. 26, 2012.
4"About VHA," United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Oct. 26, 2012.
5"Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 2011 Performance and Accountability Report [PDF 13.19MB]," United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Oct. 26, 2012.
6Special Note: Inclusion of an organization in the directory does not constitute approval or endorsement by VA or the United States government of the organization or its activities. Some veteran service organizations are "chartered," which means they are federally chartered and/or recognized or approved by the VA secretary for purposes of preparation, presentation and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.