Medical centers operated by the Military Health System, which serves active duty members of the US military, deliver high quality health care with minimal wait times.

The Veterans Affairs, which provides healthcare for veterans, appears to not deliver a similar level of care. There are several news articles reporting long wait times. According to Army veteran Pete Hegseth, many veterans get their healthcare outside the VA if they can afford it.

Both the Veterans Health Administration and Military Health System are operated by the government, so why is there such a disparity in quality?


  • 3
    If you're looking for an official answer (eg, from the Pentagon or VA) I'll be very surprised if you find one that justifies this difference. Pragmatically, a) the military has a much bigger budget than the VA, b) there are ~18m veterans and ~1.3m active duty military, and (cynically) c) while they're often shown respect for past service and frequently have higher social standing, veterans are private citizens and therefore don't get special treatment Oct 5, 2020 at 19:29
  • Haha, I tried but can't find any official answer. I assumed someone who has been in the system would know better. Thanks for the reasons you provided though. :-)
    – Dev Dhruv
    Oct 5, 2020 at 19:31
  • 1
    The VA is not the way to run insurance humanely. It is the premier example of how to run insurance if the goal is to use as few funds as possible. From consequences from severe frostbite during the battle of the Chosin Reservoir to consequences from the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, from botched field surgeries to PTSD, both with lifelong consequences, the VA is very reluctant to admit medical problems caused by military service are real because doing so would wipe out the VA monetarily. Oct 6, 2020 at 7:04
  • 5
    VTC clarity. The health care the president receives is independent of care for active-duty and veterans and Walter Reed is not a typical military hospital. There is a distinction between in-patient and out-patient services not evident in the question. There are no links to support the assertions. The use of "horrendously long" could be seen as discrediting the VA, absent a link identifying the "horrors". Disclaimer: I am a veteran who receives health care through the VHA. (VHA is the division of the VA providing health care.)
    – Rick Smith
    Oct 6, 2020 at 14:51

1 Answer 1


The reason that it is different is that different government bureaucracies provide health care to active duty service members and to veterans. In that situation, one or the other will be better to some small or large degree.

The reasons that one ends up being better and the ways to determine which one is better have long, path dependent histories and are very much subject to dispute.

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