Although navigating the world of health insurance options for veterans may be daunting, the rewards are worthwhile.
Veterans’ health insurance options can provide some of the most thorough care in the country. Plans aimed at veterans may also be subsidized by the U.S. government. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act requires that all Americans, including veterans, obtain some form of health care insurance. Therefore, finding a program made for your status as a veteran benefits you in numerous ways.
Nevertheless, figuring out what program best suits your needs is a challenging task. The U.S. healthcare system is exceptionally complicated. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), which manages the majority of veteran programs, is not any simpler. What you qualify for depends on a number of factors, including: what branch of the armed forces you served in, whether you were disabled while in service, the severity of your disability and your financial situation.
Other factors may be considered as well. The VA recommends that you apply directly for veterans’ health insurance benefits to learn what precisely you qualify for. The sections below detail the potential veterans’ health insurance options available to you.
Formerly known as the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS), TRICARE health insurance is available for active duty and retired service members and their families. TRICARE is not available to all retirees from the National Guard or Reserves. Only retired reserve or guard members who meet particular qualifications can apply for TRICARE. However, it is available to all retirees of uniformed services.
TRICARE has multiple health plans available for retired service members. The best plan for an individual veteran depends on what their needs are and which beneficiaries they wish to cover as well. Additionally, plan availability can vary by location. For example, TRICARE Prime is only available in Prime Service areas in the United States. Veterans of uniformed services may be eligible for the following programs:
Although TRICARE coverage mostly depends on what plan you select, VA health insurance qualifications are more complicated. Your eligibility depends on how long you served, where you served, whether you were disabled in service and how severe your disability is. Factors that can influence your eligibility include your income, the number of dependents you wish to claim and other financial aspects. The VA recommends that you apply directly for health care benefits to determine what you are eligible for as a veteran.
The bare minimum qualifications to be eligible for VA health benefits include leaving active service under any condition except a dishonorable discharge. If you were dishonorably discharged, you are not eligible for VA health benefits. Additionally, veterans enlisted after September 1980 must have served 24 continuous months, or the entire period in which they were called to duty. Veterans with awards, who were discharged for disability or who have a service-connected disability may have enhanced eligibility. Veterans receiving pensions and veterans who served in specific stations also have enhanced eligibility. For example, veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune for 30 or more days between August 1953 and December 1987 will have a greater chance of qualifying for insurance.
The potential VA health care services available are vast, but not all veterans are eligible to receive these benefits. However, veterans that are eligible can receive the following health services:
Eligibility for VA health benefits is determined when you apply. The only way to identify what coverage is available, what costs you might pay for that coverage and whether you should seek VA health care is to complete the application process. Even if you are eligible, you may determine that you will need additional coverage. This is because the VA will sort you into a priority group based on your need and level of disability. If you are not disabled and earn a high income, you may have to wait several months to receive basic services. In that case, you may prefer a private insurer or TRICARE health insurance.