Sunday, March 27, 2011

Medicare with VA Benefits

Medicare with VA Benefits

Question: I am 61, on VA disability, and get free health care except dental. When I turn 65 and get Medicare, will I still be able to go to the VA for medical care?

Answer: Qualified veterans may have and use Medicare and VA benefits at the same time.

You're several years away from 65, so bear in mind this answer is for current guidelines and those could change by the time you reach 65.

In most cases you will have your VA benefits and Medicare once you reach age 65. With VA, there are several levels of eligibility so it is important to contact VA as the time nears to find out exactly what your coverage will be.

Typically, to automatically receive Medicare Part A you must have a minimum number of credits earned from employment or receive them under a spouse's coverage. You can find out how your disability effects this requirement by calling Social Security (1-800-772-1213). You likely will need to enroll in Medicare Part B. There is a premium for Part B. Your disability and financial circumstances will effect what you are required to pay. Also, there is a penalty for enrolling outside your initial enrollment period if you are not covered under a qualified plan. VA can advise you on how your VA coverage fits these guidelines.

Right now VA prescription coverage is considered "creditable coverage" to Medicare Part D -the drug plan for Medicare. This means you are not penalized for failing to enroll in a Medicare drug plan (Part D). You may have both Medicare Part D and VA but may only fill a prescription with one or the other, not both.

You don't say how long you have been on VA disability. I have talked to some disabled veterans who are under 65 and because they qualify for Social Security Disability they begin receiving Medicare benefits in their 25th month of disability. VA benefits, in general, and disability benefits even more so, are complicated so be sure to check with VA for specifics to your situation.