Enrolling for health care at the VA

When I talk to veterans, I often hear incorrect assumptions about getting healthcare from the VA.

What I hear most frequently is, “Well I don’t have a service-connected disability so they wouldn’t take me as a patient”. This is not true. My father retired from the VA and he made sure I enrolled as soon as I got back from active duty. At that time, and for years after my initial enrollment, I did not have a service-connected disability. The VA provides full healthcare for anyone that meets the VA’s criteria for being a veteran listed on their website.

Does it cost anything to receive health care from the VA?

Well, it depends on how much money you make. When you enroll at the VA, they will have you take a MEANS test. This basically just asks how much money you made in the previous tax year. If you don’t make much money, then all of the VA services will be free. This was my experience while I was in college. Now that I have a good federal job, I pay 8 dollars per medical prescription. Seeing the doctor is still free. Any medicine that I am prescribed for a service-connected disability is also free.

Enrolling at the VA is pretty easy. Their enrollment web page shows all of your options. You can enroll online, by phone, or in person. Being enrolled at the VA counts as coverage under the Affordable Care Act and you will not have to pay a penalty if you use the VA as your sole healthcare provider. Even if you have private insurance through your employer, you can always keep the VA in mind for routine visits like an eye exam to cut down on co-pays.

Only a year ago, you had to have one appointment at the VA per year or they would drop you as a patient. You could always re-enroll, but it was an unnecessary hassle. In the last few months they started sending me emails announcing that when you enroll now, you are a patient for life. This is a recent program, so if you used to go the VA but haven’t in a while, you will probably still need to enroll again. I am sure they will still have you fill out a MEANS test each year, but at least they won’t drop you from the system if you don’t have an appointment annually.

I use the VA as my sole healthcare provider. If you are a veteran, I am sure you have heard about problems at the VA. And they certainly do have problems throughout the system, but it is a good option for those without healthcare plans at their work, or if your healthcare plan at work is too expensive.




One thought on “Enrolling for health care at the VA

  1. Pingback: My HealtheVet: your VA electronic health record | Veterans' resources site

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