Your military service gives you the title of veteran and Thank You for your Service!

Not all veterans sign up for additional benefits upon discharged. As a veteran, you could be eligible for medical care through the VA clinics and hospitals or eligible for a veteran pension.

Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties both have Veteran Service Agencies as part of the County government which helps veterans sign up for benefits, medical and financial. Chautauqua County Veteran Service Agency can be reached at 716-661-8255. Cattaraugus County Veteran Service Agency can be reached at 716-701-3298. These agencies provide assistance to veterans who want to apply for medical benefits, pension benefits or disability benefits. The staff is also available to answer questions related to VA programs available in our region.

Getting back to your question, “What else do you need to do?” Being a veteran does not mean you have applied for veterans benefits. If you are using the VA healthcare system already, great! If you haven’t applied, reach out to the Veteran Service Agencies and ask them to help you through the application process.

If you have already registered for the VA Healthcare system and are using it, you could stop there. The VA Healthcare system provides you with medical care at their facilities and prescription drug coverage that is considered creditable coverage.

Your Medicare Part A & B coverage allows you to use almost any hospital or provider within the United States. You would have deductibles and co-pays for medical care as you access the Medicare system. Your VA Healthcare system may or may not have co-pays (depending on your status) for care. Your mail order medications will cost no more than $9 per month ($27 for the 90-day supply)

You also could decide to enroll in additional insurance that would work within the Medicare system, and provides for services outside of the VA Healthcare system. When you sign up for Medicare A & B, you can evaluate the multitude of health insurance plans available to individuals with Medicare in our area. The Medicare Advantage Plans are usually inexpensive with regard to premiums and often come with Prescription drug coverage can be used at local and national pharmacies. This type of coverage would be in addition to your Veteran health and medical benefits.

Another options available is to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan as secondary medical benefits and even an additional Prescription Drug Plan. This pathway tends to have a higher monthly premium, but lower costs as you access healthcare.

If you are a veteran who is eligible for TriCare for Life with Medicare Part A & B, you have all the coverage you need and does NOT require you sign up for additional coverage of any type.

If you are a veteran or family of a veteran with ChampVA, and you sign up for Medicare A & B you have all the coverage you need and does NOT require you sign up for additional coverage of any type.

To pull back to your question, if you are enrolled in the VA Healthcare system you don’t have to do anything more if you choose not to. If you haven’t enrolled in the VA Healthcare system, I would strongly recommend you check to see if you are eligible. If you aren’t eligible for the VA healthcare system, you need to add on additional coverage to your Medicare Part A & B. At the very least you must add prescription drug coverage. If you choose not to do anything additional, you may have a penalty later if you do sign up for additional coverage.

The Medicare system provides an Annual Open Enrollment Period to change your insurance coverage, which is October 15 to December 7, each year. There are also Special Enrollment Periods throughout the year for qualifying situations, allowing you to change your insurance choices if you meet the necessary criteria.