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New Vets Get VA Priority: Approximately 120,000 veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan receiving care through the Department of Veterans Affairs will get top priority when they try to access treatment, according to VA Secretary James Nicholson. Veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom make up two percent of VA’s total patient load, but they are just returning from combat, and they deserve priority for their physical and mental needs, Nicholson said.