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Q. My father has been diagnosed with cancer and does not have insurance. He is a vet—how do I get him treatment?


Your father may qualify for Veterans Affairs (VA) health care benefits if he served in active military service and was released under any condition other than dishonorable. An application can be submitted regardless of how long it has been since your father’s service and discharge. Call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visit for more information and to begin the application process.

If he is a Vietnam era veteran who served in Vietnam or specific areas of Korea and Thailand, he may be eligible for compensation under the Presumptive Service-connected Agent Orange Disability Compensation.

Other options you can explore include state and federal health care programs. Eligibility for health care is based on age, income, or pre-existing disability.

If he is ineligible for public programs, high-risk health insurance pools allow patients who have been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions to buy a policy. The cost may be high and there may be a waiting list, but it’s cheaper than being uninsured and paying out of pocket. The National Association of State Comprehensive Insurance Plans lists high-risk pools by state.

Hospitals and clinics may offer charity care and sliding scale programs (fees based on his income). Some hospitals are required to see patients who are uninsured. Contact your local department of public health, social services, or business office of your hospital of choice for more information.

The Patient Advocate Foundation provides advice and guidance on insurance related issues.

If your father registers with the VA, they have a number of services designed specifically to support the family caregivers.

Finally, CancerCare caregiver services are free of charge and available to anyone affected by the cancer diagnosis.

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