Health Insurance Options for Veterans

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November 11 is Veterans’ Day in the United States. It is a day of remembrance, reverence, and admiration; people across the country will remember and be thankful for the heroic sacrifices of all US military veterans, whether they made it home after their service or not. Unfortunately, many veterans end up struggling for money because they never learned how to take advantage of programs made to help them. There is a lot of governmental help out there for vets, including with health insurance.

In the United States, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) provides healthcare to veterans under a VA healthcare plan. If a veteran qualifies, then the VA will pay for most or all of their medical needs, free of charge. In this article, we’ll explain who can apply for a VA health plan, what it can get you, and what to do if you’re a veteran who doesn’t qualify.

Who can apply for a VA health plan?

There are a few categories of veterans that qualify for the VA health plan. In order to apply for a VA healthcare plan, you have to have done one of the following:

  • -Served 24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty
  • -Been discharged for a disability that was either caused or made worse by your active service
  • -Been discharged for a hardship or “early out”
  • -Served prior to September 7, 1980.

If you were dishonorably discharged, then you are disqualified from all VA benefits. Otherwise, if any of the above describe you, then you can apply for a VA healthcare plan.

Enhanced Eligibility

In some circumstances, you may be able to get “Enhanced Eligibility Status”. If you get it, then you’ll be moved to a higher priority group and will, therefore, be more likely to get benefits.

You qualify for Enhanced Eligibility if you:

  • -Receive payments from VA for a service-connected disability
  • -Were discharged for a disability resulting from something that happened to you in the line of duty
  • -Were discharged for a disability that got worse in the line of duty
  • -Are a recently discharged combat veteran
  • -Get a VA pension
  • -Are a former prisoner of war
  • -Have received a Purple Heart
  • -Have received a Medal of Honor
  • -Get (or qualify for) Medicaid benefits
  • -Served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
  • -Served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War (August 2, 1990-November 11, 1998)
  • -Served at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987

I need help applying for benefits

You don’t have to apply on your own. If you need help, then you can:

Best in class healthcare for VA (hospitals etc.)

If you are receiving healthcare through Veteran Affairs, then your biggest concern is probably “where should I go if I need to see a doctor?” Most of the time you’ll have to go to a hospital in the Veterans’ Health Administration. Luckily, services like Care Compare exist to help you both find a VA hospital near you and compare it to both civilian hospitals and other VA hospitals.

Speaking of civilian hospitals, veterans on a VA healthcare program have been able to visit select civilian urgent care facilities since 2019. You can find civilian locations that qualify for this program by searching on va.gov.

What if you don’t qualify for a VA plan?

The sad truth is that not every veteran qualifies for VA healthcare and not everyone who qualifies will actually see any benefits. Don’t give up hope; there are other great, affordable options available to veterans.

Alternative Options

Even if you can’t apply for VA benefits, you may still be eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid eligibility and benefits vary state-to-state, so this is not a viable option for everybody. On the flip side, many states offer special, extended Medicaid benefits for military veterans. You can use the healthcare.gov calculator to see if you qualify for Medicaid based on income alone. If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, either, don’t worry; there are other affordable options.

If the VA health plans and Medicaid aren’t viable for you, then you can turn to a Marketplace plan. Health Insurance Marketplaces are a feature of the Affordable Care Act and provide an easy way to find affordable, private health insurance. In fact, Marketplace plans are the most affordable health insurance plans available to a lot of people thanks to federal and state tax subsidies. They can even be free! If you speak to a broker that is licensed in your state, then they can help you find all the subsidies that you can use.

If you don’t want a Marketplace plan or can’t find one that suits your needs, then you can still find private health insurance. Companies like United Healthcare, BlueCross BlueShield, and many others all provide various levels of coverage at affordable prices. These private companies have built their name on their reliability and consistent access to important services. Many of them have special services and offers for veterans. 

If none of these options are viable for you, then you can STILL get healthcare protection (but not health insurance) through a health sharing ministry. Health sharing ministries operate similarly to health insurance companies, but they are much cheaper. However, in exchange they do not cover all essential benefits and do not guarantee coverage when you need it. Health sharing ministries are often organized around religious denominations or faiths.

Who do you call

If you are a veteran and need help with your health insurance, then there are several resources made just for you. You can talk to someone anytime through the VA support chat at ask.va.gov. Alternatively, you can call the veteran health benefits hotline at 877-222-VETS. 

If you need help finding a private health insurance plan that’s within your budget, then working with a broker is your best option. A broker is totally free for you to use; the health insurance companies pay all the broker’s fees and can’t increase your premiums to reflect them. Contact one of the licensed brokers at Apollo Insurance Group or call us at (913)-279-0077 to find the perfect plan for you today.

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