The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest, most technologically advanced health care system in the U.S. All veterans who served our country in an honorable fashion owe it to themselves to check their eligibility for VA health care.

For veterans struggling financially due to a job loss or decreased income, the VA offers an assortment of programs that can relieve the costs of health care or provide care at no cost. It is important that eligible veterans are aware of the options VA has available to help them afford the health care they have earned.

Veterans whose previous income was ruled too high for VA health care may be able to enter the VA system based upon a hardship if their current year's income is projected to fall below federal income thresholds due to a job loss, separation from service or some other financial setback.

Veterans determined eligible for VA health care due to hardship can avoid co-payments that are applied to veterans in higher income thresholds.

Additionally, veterans who are already receiving care from the VA may be eligible to avoid future co-payments if their current year income is substantially reduced.

Enrolled veterans who have experienced a loss of employment, a sudden decrease in their income or an increase in out-of-pocket health care expenses for themselves or a family member can apply for a medical care hardship from the VA to help eliminate health care debt and future co-payments.

Also eligible for no-cost VA care are most veterans who recently returned from a combat zone. Returning veterans are entitled to five years of free VA care. The five-year "clock" begins with their discharge from the military, not their departure from the combat zone.

There is no cost to a veteran to determine eligibility. For information about VA health care eligibility, how to enroll for care, or how to apply for a medical care hardship to avoid future co-payments for VA health care, interested veterans can visit the VA health eligibility Web site at