In the United States, veterans and their dependents enjoy a wide range of benefits for their service to the country. Many of these benefits, including health care coverage, are available both while actively in the service and during retirement. Most non-military personnel look forward to depending on Medicare for their health care coverage during their retirement years. If you were in the military, however, can you have both Medicare and Veteran’s benefits? A Vero Beach estate planning attorney at Kulas & Crawford explains the relationship between veteran’s benefits and Medicare.
Veteran’s Health Care Benefits
Anyone who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable may qualify for VA health care benefits including qualifying Reserve and National Guard members. Veterans who enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980, or who entered active duty after Oct. 16, 1981, must have served 24-continuous months or the full period for which they were called to active duty in order to be eligible. This minimum duty requirement may not apply to Veterans discharged for hardship, early out or a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
Medicare is a federally funded healthcare program exclusively for people over age 65 and for certain individuals under age 65 who are also disabled. Medicare is an “entitlement” program, meaning if you (or your spouse) paid into the program for the required length of time – 10 years — through your payroll taxes during your working years you are automatically entitled to Medicare benefits. Medicare comes in four parts. Part A, or basic Medicare is free. If you wish to sign up for the additional parts of Medicare, however, it may require payment of a monthly premium similar to private health insurance. The four parts of Medicare and the benefits included in each part are as follows:
- Part A – Hospital care – Covers the cost of being in a medical facility.
- Part B – Covers doctors, medical tests and procedures – basically, anything done to you. There is a monthly premium for Part B coverage.
- Part C – Medicare Advantage – Part C is an alternative to traditional Medicare coverage. Coverage often includes Parts A, B and D. Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies.
- Part D – Prescription drug coverage – D is administered by private insurance companies, and you are required to have it unless you have coverage from another source. Part D requires you to pay a monthly premium in most cases.
Can You Have both Medicare and Veteran’s Benefits?
You can have both Medicare and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, but Medicare and VA benefits do not work together. Medicare does not pay for any care that you receive at a VA facility. For Medicare to cover your care, you must receive care at a Medicare-certified facility that works with your Medicare coverage. Conversely, for your VA coverage to cover your care, you must generally receive health care services at a VA facility. Moreover, VA benefits will not pay for Medicare cost-sharing (deductibles, copayments, coinsurances).
Consequently, if you chose not to enroll in Medicare and to keep your VA coverage only, you will not have health insurance for facilities outside the VA health system. Some seniors choose to enroll in Medicare Part A when they turn 65 because it’s premium-free but turn down Part B because of the additional monthly premium. If you change your mind and decide to enroll in Medicare in the future, you may face penalties and would likely have to wait to enroll during the General Enrollment Period (GEP). You will not be eligible for the Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP) if you delay Medicare enrollment.
If you decide to enroll in Part B, you should do so during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Enrolling in Part B provides you with the flexibility of getting health care outside the VA system. Also, you may qualify for programs to help pay the Part B premium and Medicare cost-sharing. Remember that you can keep your VA health benefits to get coverage for health care services and items not covered by Medicare, such as over-the-counter medications, annual physical exams, and hearing aids.
Contact a Vero Beach Estate Planning Attorney
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about veteran’s benefits and Medicare, please contact an experienced Vero Beach estate planning attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule a consultation.