Use of VA Benefits and Services: 2021

Part 3 - Health Care and
Disability Compensation

To promote awareness of basic characteristics of the Veteran population being served by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the benefits and services provided, the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (NCVAS) conducted a study on Veterans who have used at least one of 22 benefits or services (referred to as "users") provided by VA during Fiscal Years 2010 through 2021. Part 1 of this report presents basic characteristics of the VA user population and trends in their use of benefits and services. Part 2 compares the Veteran user population to Veterans who have not used any VA benefits or services. Part 3 presents more detailed information on the two largest VA programs, Health Care and Disability Compensation.
Key questions addressed in Part 3:
  • How has the percentage of VA users who have relied on the two largest programs changed over the years?
  • What are the patterns of VA Health Care usage among Veterans with service-connected disabilities? How has their use changed over time, and how does it vary by degree of disability and race/ethnicity?
Key findings:
  • The percentage of VA users who have used these programs has increased from 74% in FY 2010 to 79% in FY 2021.
  • The percentage of service-connected disabled Veterans who are enrolled in the VA Health Care System and use it has steadily increased since FY 2010, from 64% to 71%. This closely tracks with the decrease in the percentage who were not enrolled.
  • Among service-connected disabled Veterans in FY 2021 there was a clear trend of increasing reliance on VA Health Care with higher degrees of disability.
  • In FY 2021 there was notable variation between race/ethnicity groups in the percentage of disabled Veterans who used VA Health Care.

Health Care and Disability Compensation Compared to Other Programs

VA's two largest programs are Health Care and Disability Compensation. The VA meets the health care needs of minority Veterans by providing a broad range of primary care, specialized care, and related medical and rehabilitative services. Disability Compensation is a monetary benefit paid to Veterans for disability resulting from illness or injury incurred or aggravated during military service.
The following chart shows the trend in percent of VA users who participated in either of those programs compared to those who only participated in other programs. The share of participants in the Health Care and Disability Compensation programs increased from 74% to 79% between FY  2010 and 2021.

Health Care Use among Service-Connected Disabled Veterans

Over the period of study the rate of enrollment in, and use of the Health Care program increased among the service-connected disabled (SCD) Veteran population. The figure below shows the rate of use (dark blue) within fiscal year increased from 64.0% in FY 2010 to 70.9% in FY 2021. The increase mirrored a decrease in the percent of SCD Veterans who were not enrolled (yellow) in the Health Care program, from 11.9% in FY 2010 to 6.9% in FY 2021. The percent of SCD Veterans who were enrolled for Health Care but did not use the program in a fiscal year was remarkably stable, around 24%, with a small decrease in FY 2021. The broader picture is one of increasing levels of enrollment and use of the Health Care program.
SCD Veterans receive a disability rating based on the severity of their service-connected disability. It is expressed as a percentage representing how much the disability impacts the Veteran's ability to function.
Among SCD Veterans in FY 2021 there was a clear trend of increasing reliance on VA Health Care with higher percentages of disability. The share of SCD Veterans who used Health Care ranged from 46.8% for those with a 0% rating (i.e., disabled but no effect on function), to 86.5% for those with a 100% rating.
The percentage of SCD Veterans who used Health Care in FY 2021 also varied by race/ethnicity. Asian SCD Veterans had the lowest rate of Health Care use (65.1%), while African American SCD Veterans had the highest rate (79.1%).
Return to the Introduction, or view Parts 1 and 2.
See the Appendix for information on the administration of VA services, the data source used for this report, and the methodologies and assumptions.

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Title photo by U.S. Pacific Fleet licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0.