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Veteranís (VA) Health Care
Old 11-09-2014, 09:01 AM   #1
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Veteranís (VA) Health Care

I am a disabled Vet, and am exploring healthcare options for after I retire. I am healthy now, and do not have any health issues. Blood pressure is normal. I just turned 55. I can go to the VA Hospital, which is less than 10 miles from my house.

I recently learned that the VA will cover emergency care, for the first 72 hours, at any emergency clinic. You have to notify them within 72 hours, and if you can be transferred to a VA hospital, you get transferred. If not, you stay, and the VA pays.

Emergency care does not cover urgent care, at least I do not believe, but it does cover emergencies that require an ambulance ride to the hospital. I am not sure about false alarms. So that takes care of health insurance for any real emergencies.

I know I can get Ďnormalí insurance coverage, starting on any January 1, just by signing up. If something bad happens, and I donít want the VA, I can switch on any 1/1. With or without pre-existing conditions.

I could use the VA exclusively for a few years, then go on Medicare. Or get a high deductible policy. Or some other option.


Itís too bad disabled Veteranís cannot sign up for any ACA plan, and get a 100% subsidy, no matter what the income level of the veteran is.

What do you Vets do between FIRE and Medicare?
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Old 11-09-2014, 09:15 AM   #2
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Well retired from USAF in 1996, but have always had employer insurance with either myself or DW. We used the employer insurance as primary and TriCare as secondary, TriCare normally paid co-pays and any costs that the Primary insurance didn't pay.

We only use the VA for Service Connected Disabilities since the VA covers those costs, if you use them for your primary provider make sure you get into see someone at least every 6 months or you fall out of their system and will have to start all over, which can take up to 6 months to get next appointment.

Since I retired about 11 months ago we use DW government insurance (Air National Guard and Full time Tech) which we will probably keep after she retires since we like it and the costs don't go up and the costs are in the retirement planned expenses and with TriCare picking up the other costs it is pretty good.

I am in the process of re-evaluation of my service connected disabilities and will use the VA as needed.

Once, we turn 65 it will be Medicare, VA, and TriCare for Life, may drop DW insurance at this time, but will see what has changed between now and then.
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Old 11-09-2014, 12:36 PM   #3
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I am currently using Medicare/Tricare for life but also see my VA doc twice a year because I have a 40% service connected disability. My VA visits are an opportunity to get another doctor's viewpoint regarding my health at no cost to me. I also visit my primary care doctor 3-4 times a year.

All of these visits seem to keep this 70 YO in pretty good shape.
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Old 11-09-2014, 01:25 PM   #4
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Before hitting 65, I used Tricare Standard with a Mediplus supplement. I paid very, very little for anything.

Since that date, I've used Medicare with Tricare For Life as the supplement. I pay even less now for anything.

Both before and after my 65th year, I've also seen my VA doc at least once a year. Sometimes just for a checkup, sometimes for a second opinion on something. I only have a 10% disability rating, so I'm reluctant to use the VA system too much; I'd rather keep their services available for those who need it more. My VA doc says that's nonsense; their budget is partly based on how many people they see in a year, so they're always happy to give me an appointment. But I'm still reluctant.
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Old 11-09-2014, 04:04 PM   #5
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Before hitting 65, I used Tricare Standard with a Mediplus supplement. I paid very, very little for anything.
Are you retired military? I only served 4 years, but am 10% disabled. I do not think I am eligible for TriCare.

So, I am just wondering what all the options are that I may not have uncovered.
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Old 11-09-2014, 04:23 PM   #6
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I'm certainly no expert, but it is my understanding that the VA decides on a case by case basis whether they will cover emergency care--and sometimes they don't and the vet ends up with a huge bill. There were cases of this mentioned on another forum (Veterans Benefits Network) I sometimes follow. My DH is 100% VA disabled, but I carry Medicare and a supplement for him, even though he is now receiving all his medical care at the VA. Having to deal with the VA to get his 100% rating, I don't want to deal with the hassle of trying to have the VA pay for emergency care, even if they eventually do pay. It is my understanding that if you have other health insurance, the VA definitely will not pay. Also, while we are happy with the care DH receives at the VA, I know others who have not received the kind of care they deserve and I know that care even at our VA might not be so good in the future. Some say that the VA will definitely pay for emergency care, but there are always gray areas. For example, you might have chest pain and go to the hospital in an ambulance and after all the tests are completed, it is decided you have GERD. Would the VA consider that an emergency?

I have a friend who's DH just passed. He only had VA medical care, but it was always a hassle, and she was constantly fighting to get him the care he needed. They couldn't afford anything else, so she just did the best she could.

It's a very individual decision, but for me, as long as we can afford other health insurance, it's something we will spend our $$ on.

Again, I am no expert. Just sharing my thoughts.
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Old 11-09-2014, 04:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Senator View Post
Are you retired military? I only served 4 years, but am 10% disabled. I do not think I am eligible for TriCare.

So, I am just wondering what all the options are that I may not have uncovered.
Yes, sorry, I'm retired military.
The one thing I can say is that the VA medical care is highly variable from one region to another. You are probably well aware of this, if only from reading the news this past year.

My father, a disabled WW II vet, had absolutely abysmal care from the VA facility where he lived. Yet I've had nothing but positive experiences where I live. So you have to ask people to get a feeling for what you're facing in any VA facility.

I expect things to get better across the board now that there are searchlights on the VA system, but who knows how long it will take?
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Old 11-09-2014, 08:05 PM   #8
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I'm certainly no expert, but it is my understanding that the VA decides on a case by case basis whether they will cover emergency care--and sometimes they don't and the vet ends up with a huge bill.
Here is the document that I have read. While it is no guarantee, if you call 911 and are eligible for VA healthcare, you go to the nearest place, VA or not. Of course a false alarm might actually kill you when you see the bill...

I will likely get a large deductible policy when I have to choose, and spend more time at the VA as I need it.
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Old 11-09-2014, 09:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Are you retired military? I only served 4 years, but am 10% disabled. I do not think I am eligible for TriCare.

So, I am just wondering what all the options are that I may not have uncovered.
10% gets you Priority 3 at the VA. They are currently serving at least Priority 6 vets so you should have no issue getting into the VA system for the foreseeable future.

I have been eligible for VA healthcare for a long time but I just got into the system at Bay Pines about three months ago. They provide women's healthcare in the Women's Clinic. I loved the doctor I was assigned and the initial appointment experience was excellent and no health issues were detected. I can definitely see myself getting all my healthcare at the VA. That was my first visit to an MD in about 3 years so I'm not a high consumer of healthcare. I'll have to make sure I get in to see my VA doc more often than that or I will fall out of the system.

My pre-Obamacare HDHP with Humana is expiring at the end of the year so my monthly premium is increasing from $225 to about $400. That's still affordable but I'm debating whether to just have only VA care next year. The issue is accidents and, unlike the OP, I'm not convinced that all emergency care costs are guaranteed to be covered (even for the first 72 hours). My credit union sent me an application for accident insurance so maybe something like that is an option. I would also boost the medical coverage on my auto policy.

I haven't been seriously injured since I was in a car accident when I was five but, of course, one never knows. That's why they call it insurance!
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Old 11-10-2014, 04:10 PM   #10
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10% gets you Priority 3 at the VA. They are currently serving at least Priority 6 vets so you should have no issue getting into the VA system for the foreseeable future.
Priority 3 is right along with Purple Heart recipients, POWs, and veterans awarded the Medal of Honor, so I should be safe. If they change it, they will probably grandfather existing vets in.

I scheduled an appointment for an annual physical in January 2015. I knew I was not supposed to have VA Healthcare as long as I have a HSA, but this yearís HSA certification said

ďI have not or will not have received health benefits (other than preventive care) from the Veterans Administration in the three months before my enrollment effective date (i.e., Jan. 1 if enrolling during annual enrollment).Ē

Since I contribute to my HSA a bit out of each paycheck, I thought I was never eligible as long as I contribute.

A physical is preventative care, and after January it doesnít matter. If I need more in-depth medical services, I have until 10/1 to get them. I can save my HSA for retirement money.

I am considering a very high deductible and using the VA for my primary care and insurance. I am not sure what happened if you travel and need a Dr. whether or not you are on VA medical.
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