Purple Heart Veteran
VA Boosts Healthcare Priority for Purple Heart Vets
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2000 -- Veterans who've earned the Purple Heart medal
now receive faster service and save money when they access Department of
Veterans Affairs health care.
A public law passed late last year by Congress, the Veterans Millennium
Health Care and Benefits Act, extended new benefits to Purple Heart
recipients, Kent Simonis, Veteran Affairs' director for health
administration services, said in an Aug. 22 interview with the American
Forces Information Service.
Simonis said Purple Heart veterans have been placed in a higher- priority
category for VA healthcare services and no longer need to make co-payments
for inpatient or outpatient VA medical services. The change affects the
seven-step priority system that Congress established for VA health care.
"Under the new system, the minimum classification for Purple Heart
is now priority group 3," he said. "That is very good news for
recipients, in that they are virtually assured of VA health care services
now and well into the future."
Before the change, Purple Heart recipients often were placed in priority
groups 4 through 7, Simonis said. Those who qualified for priority groups 1
or 2 because of service-connected disabilities will remain in those groups,
Veterans Affairs health care priority categories include:
o Group 1: veterans assigned a service-connected disability rating of 50
percent or greater.
o Group 2: veterans assigned a service-connected disability rating of 30 or
o Group 3: veterans who are Purple Heart recipients or former prisoners of
war; or who have 10 or 20 percent service-connected disability; or who were
discharged from active duty because of a disability incurred or aggravated
in the line of duty; or who were awarded special eligibility under 38 U.S.
Code, Section 1151, "Benefits for individuals disabled by VA treatment or
o Group 4: veterans receiving aid in attendance or housebound pension
benefits, or who've been determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled.
o Group 5: veterans with no service-connected disabilities and those with
service-connected disabilities rated zero percent, and noncompensated
veterans whose income and net worth are below the established dollar
threshold (about $27,000).
o Group 6: World War I and Mexican border war veterans; veterans receiving
care in relation to exposure to toxic substances such as Agent Orange and
radiation; or compensated zero percent, service connected veterans.
o Group 7: nonservice-connected veterans and zero percent
nonservice-connected vets whose income and net worth are above the
established dollar threshold and who agree to make specified co-payments.
Purple Heart recipients will also save money under the new policy. Veterans
making over $27,000 per year typically have to make a co-payment, currently
$50.80 per each outpatient visit.
Purple Heart recipients are no longer make those co-payments, regardless of
income, Simonis said.
He said the VA would reimburse Purple Heart veterans for any co- payments
they've made for VA healthcare received after Nov. 29,
However, he added, Purple Heart recipients are still required to pay $2 for
each 30-day supply of prescription medication provided to outpatients for
conditions not related to military service.
Possession of the Purple Heart medal doesn't by itself qualify veterans for
VA disability compensation, Simonis said. Veterans need to be screened by a
VA process for that.
Purple Heart recipients claiming VA health benefits must prove they have
been awarded the decoration. Veterans Affairs will accept the Defense
Department Form 214, discharge papers, military personnel records, orders or
The Purple Heart traces its lineage to the U.S. military's oldest
decoration, the Badge of Military Merit, first presented by George
Washington to three soldiers in 1782. The Purple Heart indicates meritorious
military service and is awarded to service m
embers who've been wounded during action against the enemy, to include
wounds incurred during captivity. (See sidebars).
For more Veterans Affairs benefits information, see the agency's Web site at