Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
The Defense Hearing Center of Excellence, or HCE, was established by Section 721 of Public Law 110-417 (Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009). The Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, has a collaborative partnership with HCE to fulfill its mission. The role of the Secretary of VA is defined by the National Defense Authorization Act that established HCE, directing that, “the Secretary of Defense shall ensure that the centers collaborate to the maximum extent practicable with the Department of Veterans Affairs … to carry out the responsibilities specified” in the law.
The law formalized a long-standing collaboration between the Department of Defense, or DoD, and VA audiology programs that dates back many years. The VA, formerly the Veterans Administration, inherited the hearing loss rehabilitation programs developed by the military during World War II. Since 1945, the VA has become a leader in hearing healthcare, diagnosis and treatment of hearing disorders, and auditory and vestibular research.
The Secretary of VA has executed this partnership by placing key VA personnel at HCE to enable high-level collaboration between the VA and the DoD to accomplish the objectives mandated for HCE. The VA supports HCE’s programs and initiatives that enhance the efforts of the DoD and VA with regard to the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of hearing loss and auditory system injury. The VA further supports development of a collaborative registry with bi-directional data exchange to identify and track incidence and care for hearing loss and auditory injury, and facilitates the conduct of research, development of best practices, and clinical education.
For several decades prior to the establishment of Public Law 110-417, Section 721, the DoD and VA hearing health professionals routinely coordinated initiatives to improve the health of Service members and their families, and Veterans. Since the legislative mandate, HCE has built on this existing relationship by establishing a formal platform for collaboration between the two departments. The VA continues to remain committed to, and invested in, this collaboration in support of HCE.
About the Department of Veterans Affairs
Our nation has a comprehensive system to assist its Veterans that includes healthcare, benefits, and burial and memorial services. The VA is organized under three administrations for these programs:
- Veterans Health Administration, or VHA, is America’s largest integrated healthcare system with over 1,700 sites of care organized into 21 service networks, and with nearly 9 million enrollees. The VA healthcare system includes 151 hospitals and medical centers, 135 community living centers, 370 Veterans counseling centers, and 985 outpatient clinics.
In addition to primary care and a full range of specialty services, VHA provides highly specialized, Veteran-focused programs, such as care for post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, military sexual trauma, readjustment counseling, spinal cord injuries, polytrauma and traumatic brain injury, amputation, blindness and low vision, post-deployment health coordination, and environmental exposure. VHA manages the largest audiology program in the United States with over 1,000 audiologists at over 400 sites of care.
In fiscal year 2013:
- 8.9 million Veterans enrolled, of whom 6 million actively use VA services
- 86.4 million outpatient visits occurred
- 694,700 inpatient admissions took place
- 268.6 million prescriptions were dispensed (30-day equivalent), and
- 15.9 million prosthetic services were performed
In addition, VHA manages the largest medical education program in the United States, partnering with 107 medical schools, 55 dental schools, and 1,200 other schools. More than 109,000 healthcare professionals in over 40 professions train in the VA each year.
- Veterans Benefits Administration, in partnership with VHA and the National Cemetery Administration, provides benefits and services to military members, Veterans, and their families in recognition of their service to the nation. These services include compensation, pensions, and survivor payments to more than 4 million people, through the GI Bill, which provides life insurance, educational and vocational assistance, and home loan guarantee programs.
- National Cemetery Administration honors Veterans and their families with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our nation. The VA manages the largest cemetery system in the United States, maintaining over 3 million gravesites.
Veterans Health Administration
A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable may qualify for VA healthcare benefits. Reservists and National Guard members may also qualify for VA healthcare benefits if they were called to active duty, other than for training only, by a federal order and completed the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty.
The VA requires most Veterans to enroll for healthcare services. Some Veterans are exempt from enrollment. These include:
- Veterans seeking care only for their service-connected conditions, and
- Veterans rated at 50 percent or more for disability
The VA applies a financial assessment, or means test, to determine enrollment eligibility. Veterans are placed in one of eight enrollment priority groups. Some Veterans must agree to pay co-payments for some of their healthcare.
For most Veterans, entry into the VA healthcare system begins by applying for enrollment. Veterans can now apply and submit their application for enrollment, or VA Form 1010EZ, online. Veterans can also enroll by calling 1-877-222-VETS, or 1-877-222-8387, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, or at any VA healthcare facility or VA regional benefits office. Once enrolled, Veterans can receive healthcare at VA healthcare facilities anywhere in the country.
The VA provides free healthcare for Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, for any illness possibly related to their service in that theater. If discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, Veterans have five years of eligibility.
Learn more facts about the VA and about the benefits available to Veterans.