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Chris Grimmond of Omaha Insurance Solutions discusses VA benefits and Medicare.
My father was a Korean War vet. He served on a tin can-minesweeper in the navy. The last 3 months of his life he spent in a VA Hospital. My brothers and I and our family's kept vigil. I was sleeping next to his bed the morning he passed. After we grieved, the nurses prepared his body for transport. They covered it with the flag. As we talked down the hall, they blew a horn and announced over the PA system that another warrior had fallen. We escorted my father's body to the elevator to be taken to the funeral home.
A few days later at the cemetery, after the rifle volleys, after taps, the service man handed the folded flag to my brother-he's a lieutenant coronel in the Army National Guard-and said, "On behalf of a grateful nation . . . ."
On behalf of a grateful nation, veterans are entitled to certain benefits, which includes medical care. Medicare works very well to fill in the gaps and enhance VA medical care.
VA Health benefits begin with the US Department of Veterans Affairs. You need to find out what benefits you qualify for. Qualification depends upon a number of factors: time and length of service, service related injuries, type of injuries, full or partial medical disability, etc. Your local Veterans Affairs office will help you. We have a superb office in Omaha. 800-451-5796 They will take you through the process to determine your level of coverage.
The next step is to truly understand the limitations of your VA Health Benefits. This is best done BEFORE you need them. Some questions to ask are: am I 100% covered, will I be reimbursed for coverage in non-VA facilities, do I have co-pays, etc. You may find that you are on your own for emergency care, especially if the local VA is not set up for critical illness, e.g., heart attacks, stokes, car accidents, etc.
Many veterans I speak with are comfortable with the care they receive at the VA in Omaha and Lincoln; there are many veterans in the Omaha Metro area and Lincoln. Others will travel hours from rural areas to receive care here. If you are comfortable with VA care, that is great.
Medicare can also give you other options and fill in gaps in your VA care. You may not wish to make the trip to the VA hospital from your home. You may have a family doctor that you would prefer to use. You may like the convenience of getting into the doctor's office quickly. There may be a certain specialist you want who is not at the VA. Medicare will afford you those options as well as many others. The biggest issue I believe is that you will be covered for emergency care if you have Medicare Part A & B. Your local VA hospital may not be equipped to handle a heart attack, stroke, or car accident. The ambulance will take you to the emergency room at the hospital closest to you that is rated for your particular critical illness. The Omaha VA is not a trauma center. And the bill for the emergency room and hospital stay may be yours to pay if you don't have Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan in place.
My recommendation is always to find out the facts. You need to confirm the extent of your VA benefits. Get it in writing. Don't be surprised by the gaps in your coverage. Do not miss out on the coverage that you are likewise entitled to with Medicare. Medicare is excellent medical coverage. It can be your primary coverage, a supplement to your VA benefits, or a back up to your VA medical benefits. Medicare may enhance your medical coverage at little or no cost.
I can help you understand your VA benefits in relationship with Medicare. I have many clients who are veterans. Some use Medicare primarily. Others have Medicare in place just in case. In any event, it is better to know your options.