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Advance Directives


Advance Directives are legal documents that allow individuals to convey their preferences and instructions regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care, in case they become unable to communicate their wishes. Common types of advance directives include living wills, which outline specific healthcare measures to be taken or withheld, and durable power of attorney for healthcare, which designates a trusted individual to make medical decisions on the person’s behalf. VA benefits can offer assistance and guidance in creating and updating advance directives for eligible veterans.

Key Takeaways

  1. Advance Directives are legal documents that allow individuals to communicate their preferences for medical care and treatment in case they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions themselves.
  2. Two common types of Advance Directives are the Living Will and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The Living Will outlines the individual’s specific wishes regarding medical treatments, while the Durable Power of Attorney allows a designated person to make medical decisions on their behalf.
  3. For veterans, the VA supports and encourages the use of Advance Directives to ensure their medical care preferences are honored and respected. VA health care providers are committed to following these directives to the best of their ability.


Advance Directives are crucial for veterans receiving VA benefits, as they provide a clear outline of an individual’s healthcare preferences and decisions in case they become incapable of making those choices themselves due to illness or incapacitation.

These legally-binding documents, such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) or Living Will, ensure that a trusted person or representative will make healthcare decisions on their behalf, adhering to their values and desires.

By having Advance Directives in place, veterans can have confidence that their medical treatment aligns with their wishes, even if they are unable to communicate them, ultimately promoting autonomy and safeguarding their healthcare rights.


Advance Directives serve a crucial purpose in ensuring that an individual’s medical preferences and health care decisions are respected and executed, especially when they are unable to express them personally due to incapacitation or illness. These legal documents allow a person to designate their medical treatment preferences and appoint a health care agent to make decisions on their behalf.

This can alleviate the stress for both the individual and their family members during critical health events by providing clear instructions based on the individual’s values and desires. In the context of VA benefits, Advance Directives are particularly significant for veterans as they guarantee that their health care choices align with their needs and preferences.

By establishing Advance Directives, veterans can express their decisions in areas such as life-sustaining treatments, organ donation, and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) requests. Furthermore, by designating a health care agent, they can ensure that someone who understands their wishes and values steps in to advocate for them when they cannot speak for themselves.

In this way, Advance Directives serve as an indispensable tool for veterans to maintain control over their healthcare decisions, while easing the burden faced by their loved ones in times of crisis.

Examples of Advance Directives

An Advance Directive is a legal document that allows individuals to outline their preferences for medical treatment and care when they are unable to make decisions or communicate their wishes. Here are three real-world examples related to VA Benefits and Advance Directives:

Veteran with Life-Threatening Illness: A veteran with a terminal illness may create an Advance Directive to specify their preferred medical treatments or palliative (end-of-life) care. This can include preferences regarding life-prolonging treatments, organ donation, and the use of a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order. By having an Advance Directive in place, the medical team and family members can ensure that the veteran’s choices are respected and followed.

Veteran with Alzheimer’s Disease: A veteran diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another progressive cognitive disorder may choose to complete an Advance Directive while they still have the capacity to make informed decisions. This document will provide guidance to healthcare providers, family members, and the VA health care system about the veteran’s care preferences as the disease progresses and they lose the ability to communicate or make decisions independently.

Veteran with Serious Injury: In the event of a severe injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, a veteran’s Advance Directive can be invaluable. If the veteran has specified in their Advance Directive that they do not want to be put on life support or receive certain medical interventions, this can help guide doctors and the veteran’s family in making difficult decisions while respecting their loved one’s preferences. In these cases, having an Advance Directive can help alleviate the emotional burden on family members during a time of crisis by providing clear guidance on the veteran’s desired care.

FAQ – Advance Directives

What are Advance Directives?

Advance Directives are legal documents that allow you to provide instructions about your future medical care in case you are unable to speak or make decisions for yourself. These documents include a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

Why are Advance Directives important for veterans?

Advance Directives are essential for veterans as they ensure that your healthcare providers and loved ones know your medical care preferences and follow your wishes. This helps prevent unnecessary treatments or medical procedures that you may not want, providing you control over your medical care even when you cannot communicate.

How do I create an Advance Directive?

To create an Advance Directive, you can start by obtaining the necessary forms from your state’s health department or an attorney. These forms typically include a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Once you have completed the forms, have them witnessed or notarized, and provide copies to your healthcare providers, family members, and the VA.

Can I change my Advance Directive after I create it?

Yes, you can change your Advance Directive at any time. To do so, revoke your existing document and create a new one with your updated preferences. Make sure to notify your healthcare providers, family members, and the VA of your updated document to ensure that they follow your current wishes.

How do I submit my Advance Directive to the VA?

Submitting your Advance Directive to the VA can be done by providing a copy to your primary care provider or uploading it to your My HealtheVet account under the “Blue Button” feature. This will allow VA healthcare providers to access your document and follow your preferences, ensuring your wishes are respected.

Where can I find additional resources on Advance Directives for veterans?

For additional information on Advance Directives for veterans, visit the VA’s website for Advance Care Planning or the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s website. These resources provide guidance on creating an Advance Directive and understanding your healthcare choices.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Living Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order
  • Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST)
  • Health Care Agent or Proxy

Sources for More Information