Veterans Healthcare doesn’t have to be difficult to understand even though it may seem very confusing at first. Our guide was written with the intent of explaining everything that’s available to veterans after leaving the military. According to data published by the Washington Post, one in every ten veterans 65 years or younger are uninsured. Unfortunately, many uninsured veterans may be unaware that they qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare as well as other health insurance options offered by the VA. With that in mind, here are some of the health care and health insurance options available to military veterans.
Veterans Healthcare – An Overview
Veterans healthcare is a program run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. More specifically, this department has a legal mandate to provide eligible veterans with quality inpatient and outpatient healthcare services. The program aims to promote, restore, and preserve the health of military veterans by helping them manage service-related diseases and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Gulf War Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, HIV/AIDS, blindness, Agent Orange exposure, and radiation exposure. However, only eligible veterans can access these healthcare services.
Veterans Healthcare – Eligibility Criteria
Any US citizen who has served in the US military and received an honorable military discharge is eligible for the program. In addition, members of the National Guard and the Reserves who have served in active duty may be eligible for veteran’s healthcare. Nevertheless, there are minimum duty requirements that one must fulfill to access these services. Firstly, veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980 or joined active duty after October 16, 1981 must have been deployed actively for 24 continuous months. However, this requirement does not apply to veterans who entered active duty before September 7, 1980 or received an honorable discharge due to injuries or any non-preexisting disability.
It is also worth noting that the VA has “enhanced eligibility status” guidelines that apply to certain veterans. These include former prisoners of war, veterans who served in the Persian Gulf between August 2, 1990 and November 11, 1998, Vietnam War veterans who served between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, Purple Heart medal recipients, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans who have served in a Theater of Operations post for five years prior to discharge.
This is in addition to recipients of VA pension, veterans discharged due to injuries acquired during active duty, veterans whose annual income is well below Geographical-Adjusted Thresholds or the VA’s National Income, catastrophically disabled veterans, and veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune for 30 consecutive days or more between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.
VA Health Benefits – Application Process
Eligible veterans can apply for their VA health benefits online, by phone, in person, or via traditional mail. To apply in person, visit the nearest VA healthcare facility where you will be required to fill and submit VA Form 10-10EZ. You can easily locate a VA healthcare facility near you by visiting the VA’s website.
You can also apply for your VA health benefits online by visiting http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/apply/. Once you fill and submit VA Form 10-10EZ, you should receive a confirmation a message immediately. If you fail to receive to receive the confirmation message soon after submitting your form, you should repeat the application process again. To apply by phone, call the VA office from Monday to Friday between 8:00am and 8:00pm EST. The number to call is 1-877-222-VETS (8387).
You can also call this number if you need help on any issue touching on your VA health benefits. Lastly, you can apply for your VA health benefits via snail mail. To do this, you can pick up the application form from your local VA office or download it online, fill it out and then mail it to the VA department. It is important to note that you must append your signature to the application form when applying for veteran’s health benefits in person or via mail.
Upon receiving your application, the VA department will review it and then either approve or disqualify it. If your application is successful, the VA department will communicate this information to you and schedule your first VA healthcare appointment at the same time. Additionally, the VA department will send you a personalized Veterans Health Benefits Handbook that contains detailed information on the healthcare benefits available to you.
At the same time, you will also receive your Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) and your details will appear in the VA healthcare system. It is important to note that the VA can revoke your right to access veteran’s healthcare benefits at any time even if the initial application sailed through smoothly. In such cases, the VA notifies the affected parties 60 days prior to deleting their details from the VA healthcare system and provides reason for doing so. Fortunately, you can appeal this decision.
For unsuccessful applicants, the VA allows appeals and usually states the reason/s why one has been denied healthcare benefits. This essentially means you can verify the validity of the reasons given. At the same time, the VA provides comprehensive information on the appeals process.
Veterans Healthcare Insurance Options
To start with, Medicare health coverage is normally available to veterans 65 years or older. The only exception is veterans under 65 years diagnosed with certain disabilities and diseases including End-Stage Renal disease. On the other hand, Medicaid is mostly available to low-income households, individuals, and state/federal government-recognized groups. Luckily, veterans who qualify for Medicaid are not required to pay VA healthcare copays.
Besides Medicare and Medicaid, veterans can rely on private health insurance including coverage provided by a spouse’s employer. Veterans can also access health coverage via the Tricare program that caters to both active and ex-military personnel as well as their families. If you opt for private health coverage, you must provide the VA with information on your health insurer and the health package you have purchased. This is important because the VA is legally required to bill insurers who have sold health insurance policies to veterans.
Additionally, veterans are not required to pay VA insurance claims not covered by their insurers. This notwithstanding, the VA warns veterans with private insurance policies that they risk losing coverage for their dependents if they opt out of their existing plans. More importantly, the VA says veterans especially those classified under low “Priority Groups” may be removed from its healthcare system if funding (appropriated by Congress) is insufficient.
Veterans Healthcare – Conclusion
Military personnel should not necessarily worry about their health care options after they retire from the military because there are numerous veterans healthcare options available to them. Good examples of such programs include government backed health coverage programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and private health insurance. However, one must apply for enrollment into the VA healthcare system to access health care services specifically tailored for military veterans.