Nearly 80 years after World War II ended, the surviving veterans of the conflict are getting free healthcare.

On Friday, Nov. 10, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that as of that moment all World War II veterans are now eligible for “no-cost” healthcare and medical services through the VA, as well as nursing home care.

“These members of 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,” said VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, said in a statement. “We are proud to provide world-class, no-cost health care to these heroes at VA, and we encourage all of them to enroll today.”

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Under the new policies, veterans who served between All WWII Veterans who served between Dec. 7, 1941, and Dec. 31, 1946 can access the service and “will not have to pay copays, enrollment fees or monthly premiums.”

The new policy was mandated by the Cleland-Dole Act, passed in December 2022. Veterans who get the new benefits still keep their own private healthcare, as well as Medicare and other insurance, the VA said. Previous eligibility restrictions tied to income no longer apply. 

More than 16 million Americans served during World War II. Now in November 2023, only approximately 119,000 are still alive, according to both Pew Research Center and the National World War II Museum. The survivors, who are dwindling — in 2020 there were an estimated 300,000 veterans of the conflict still alive — make up only 1% of all living American military veterans.

Veterans of course have to be enrolled in VA benefits for this new no-cost care. The department said that it is actively contacting World War II veterans to sign up for VA care.

The VA has been expanding coverage for veterans over the last year. The passage of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, greatly changed eligibility for VA care for certain ailments tied to service. Under the PACT Act, veterans are eligible for care for illnesses caused by toxic exposure during their service. The wider benefits help veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the Gulf War and Vietnam. 

Correction: 11/14/2023: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that there were approximately 19,000 World War II veterans still alive. The actual number is approximately 119,000.

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