Some Priority 8 vets could get VA care again

Edwards estimates that 265,000 veterans will benefit from the change.

VA officials acknowledged a change was coming but said it will not involve all Priority 8 veterans. Rather, limited enrollments will be allowed for some people under rules yet to be announced, officials said.

New enrollments are expected to begin in June.

VA’s Priority 8 includes veterans who either have no service-connected disability or a zero percent disability rating, with incomes above specific thresholds based on family size.

The thresholds range from $27,790 for a veteran with no dependents to $38,948 for a veteran with four dependents, with each additional dependent raising the income threshold by an additional $1,866.

Priority 8 veterans were blocked from enrolling in the VA health care system in 2003 as a budget-cutting move to help ensure funding for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

Initially, the enrollment ban was supposed to be temporary, but it stayed in place when neither the Bush administration nor Congress could come up with a way to pay for resumed enrollment of Priority 8 veterans, which angered veterans’ groups.

Last year, at the urging of Edwards and other lawmakers, Congress provided $375 million to re-enroll Priority 8 veterans, although that is only enough to expand enrollment by about 10 percent.

“Re-opening the doors of the VA system to veterans who have earned these benefits sends a clear message that we honor and respect their service and sacrifice to country,” said Edwards, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. “This needed expansion of VA benefits to middle-income veterans is just one example of how millions of veterans will benefit from the historic funding increases of the last two years.”

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