Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Become a Patient

All veterans are encouraged to enroll in the VA Health Care System. Eligibility for VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable discharge. A representative from our eligibility staff, State Department of Veterans Affairs, or staff member at the Veterans Affairs Regional Office will be able to determine eligibility of care.

In order for you to be eligible for enrollment in healthcare, you must have:

  • Been discharged from active military service under honorable conditions;
  • Served a minimum of two years if discharged after September 7, 1980 (prior to this date there is no limit);
  • If a National Guardsman or Reservist, served the entire period for which you were called to active duty other than for training purposes.

To begin the process, please complete an Application for Health Care Benefits. You can submit the form online, or you may print the form and mail it to us at:

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Eligibility Unit (Rm B189)
109 Bee Street
Charleston, SC 29401

You can also bring the form to the Medical Center. The Eligibility Office is located on the first floor, room B189. View the facility map to locate the Eligibility Office.

Whether mailing or bringing your application, please include the following items —

  • a copy of both sides of your current insurance card (including Medicare or Medicaid)
  • a copy of your DD214, 'Armed Forces Report of Transfer or Discharge'
  • (Purple Heart recipients only) a copy of your award letter if 'Purple Heart' is not noted on your DD214

To speak to someone in our eligibility office, please call (843) 789-7215 or 6217.

Basic Eligibility

If you served in the active military, naval or air service and are separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits. Current and former members of the Reserves or National Guard who 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 may be eligible for VA health care as well.

Minimum Duty Requirements

Most Veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, must have served 24 continuous months or the full period for which they were called to active duty in order to be eligible. This minimum duty requirement may not apply to Veterans who were discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, discharged for a hardship, or received an "early out." Since there are a number of other exceptions to the minimum duty requirements, VA encourages all Veterans to apply in order to determine their enrollment eligibility.

Veterans Health Benefits Handbook

VA is producing a personalized "Veterans Health Benefits Handbook" for each Veteran enrolled in the VA health care system. The purpose of the handbook is to provide a current and accurate description of VA health care benefits and services. Your handbook will be tailored specifically to you with personal identifying information and should be safeguarded as you would any other sensitive personal document.

The "Veterans Health Benefits Handbook" includes:

  • Eligibility and health care benefits,
  • Contact information for your local facility,
  • Information regarding copayment responsibilities,
  • Instructions on how to schedule appointments,
  • Guidelines to communicate treatment needs,
  • Patient rights,
  • Ways to obtain copies of medical records, and
  • Other important information.

You will receive your personalized handbook via U.S. mail; therefore, you should have a current address on file with VA. Handbooks are mailed based on Priority Group, beginning with Priority Group 1 and ending with Priority Group 8. To see when you might receive your handbook, go to the distribution schedule. You may also call VA toll-free at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) if you need to update your address or receive additional information.

Veterans Health Benefits Guide and Health Care Benefits Overview

VA also publishes the "Veterans Health Benefits Guide" designed to provide general information about the VA Medical Benefits Package, and the "Health Care Benefits Overview" designed to provide the information Veterans need to understand VA's health care system, with answers to frequently asked questions about eligibility and benefits.

Both publications are available to you at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, and can be downloaded at http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/resources/epublications.asp.

These publications are very helpful, and we encourage you to refer to them whenever you have questions about your eligibility for specific health care benefits. Additional assistance is available at the following resources: