The Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington.

The Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington. (Stars and Stripes)

This article has been updated to clarify conditions for veterans to receive free nursing home care.

WASHINGTON — Most health care is now free for the Greatest Generation under a new policy by the Department of Veterans Affairs that waives most enrollment fees, co-pays and monthly premiums for the roughly 119,000 World War II veterans still alive. 

The no-cost care is effective immediately under the new VA policies announced Friday. Veterans who served between Dec. 7, 1941, and Dec. 31, 1946, are eligible. The VA also will offer free nursing home care to veterans with qualifying service-connected disabilities. They must be enrolled in VA health care to apply. 

Veterans turned down previously for coverage are encouraged to reapply, as are those denied coverage because of income eligibility restrictions.

The VA is in the process of contacting veterans, their families and their caregivers to inform them of the free services, which applies to inpatient and out-patient care. Fees may continue for prescriptions, urgent care and long-term care.

Some nursing home officials said Monday that they are waiting to hear from veterans service organizations on how the free care will be applied and implemented.

This included the Southwest Louisiana War Veterans Home, which has 13 residents who are World War II veterans. Staff there said they are aware of the announcement but are awaiting more information. Officials at the Maine Veterans’ Homes had a similar response.

A VA spokesman on Monday did not provide details about the program.

The changes are part of the Joseph Maxwell Cleland and Robert Joseph Dole Memorial Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2022. Known as the Cleland-Dole Act, the legislation enables the veterans to keep their existing private health plans, Medicare, or other coverage. It also expands telehealth coverage and expands services for veteran homelessness, among other provisions.

The Act was named after the late Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., who served in World War II, and the late Sen. Joseph Cleland, D-Ga., a Vietnam veteran and former VA administrator.

More than 16 million Americans served in World War II. About 130 of those veterans are estimated to be dying each day, according to the VA.

“These members of the Greatest Generation answered the call to serve when our nation — and the world — needed them most. Now, it’s our job to serve them in every way that we can,” Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the VA undersecretary for health, said in a statement last week.

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Linda F. Hersey is a veterans reporter based in Washington, D.C. She previously covered the Navy and Marine Corps at Inside Washington Publishers. She also was a government reporter at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska, where she reported on the military, economy and congressional delegation.

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