It is not uncommon for retired veterans and civilians alike to get confused about VA health benefits and Medicare. Many retired veterans that are enrolled with VA health benefits believe they do not need to enroll in Medicare. They believe that their VA coverage will qualify as a substitute to Medicare. Most retired veterans are quickly discovering this is not the case.
The federal government requires all veterans over the age of 65 to enroll in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, even if they have VA health benefits. More importantly, if the only health plan you are carrying is VA coverage, you may be leaving your health and finances vulnerable.
Why Should I Have Coverage Beyond My VA Health Benefits?
As a military veteran, we cannot thank you enough for your service. As a perk of being in the military, you are entitled to VA health benefits. The problem with the benefits is that they will not cover non-approved doctor or hospital visits outside of a VA hospital. This is especially important as you turn 65 and begin to enroll in Medicare.
Consider the many scenarios that can arise where you need immediate medical attention and a VA hospital is not available. For instance, what would happen if you were in a major car accident? In emergency situations, the ambulance driver will not take you to the nearest VA approved hospital so you can use your VA health benefits. You will be taken to the closest trauma/county hospital. Not having proper Medicare coverage in place can result in a very costly trip to the hospital.
There Is Good News About Your VA Health Benefits and Medicare!
Medicare and VA coverage work together. If you have VA health benefits, you must sign up for Medicare when you are first eligible, in order to avoid penalties. Enrolling in Medicare Part A and Part B will not affect your VA coverage. You will still keep your VA plan.
Will VA Health Benefits or Medicare Pay for Routine Doctor Visits?
When you have a routine checkup with your doctor, or you need a surgical procedure, you can still go through the VA to use your VA health benefits. If you have an emergency and you’re taken to a non-VA approved hospital, then your Original Medicare Part A and Part B and your Medigap plan will be your primary coverage. So if you need to see a specialist not associated with the VA, having a Medigap plan gives you the freedom of choosing any doctor or specialist in the U.S. that accepts Medicare.