Senior Life Matters

Question: I am a Veteran and I would like to know why I should join Medicare A and B? Should I pay for Part B at $144.60 per month if I don’t plan to use it that much?

Question: I am a Veteran and I would like to know why I should join Medicare A and B? Should I pay for Part B at $144.60 per month if I don’t plan to use it that much?

Answer: Some Veterans are eligible for health benefits from the VA system. This means that they can see VA doctors, go to VA clinics and hospitals, and get medications from the VA at little or no cost to them.

Many veterans then wonder why they should get additional coverage through Medicare. I strongly encourage all Veterans that I talk with to join Medicare A and B. I do this because you never know how, when, or where you will be ill or need medical attention. If we could plan our medical emergencies we would be certain that we are near a VA hospital or clinic. However if using the example of living in Jamestown: you are walking down the street, trip or fall and break your leg. An ambulance comes and takes you to the closest hospital (UPMC Chautauqua). You would be covered for that emergency if you have Medicare. If you don’t, you would have to pay for that care out of pocket and then file to have the VA pay you back, assuming you meet the eligibility criteria for that reimbursement. Also any follow-up care from that emergency would be at full cost to you and you may not get paid back by VA, because it would not be an emergency.

There are also benefits to having two types of healthcare available to you. You should use the VA system whenever you can, but if something can’t be done by the VA locally or in the time frame that you need it done, the Medicare healthcare system available to the rest of us (non-VA) could be useful.

The VA system and the Medicare system are both government funded and separate healthcare systems and both programs could change over time. The VA system is changing in many ways for the better, but I am just not comfortable saying to a Veteran that they will never need Medicare coverage. Limiting one’s benefits and options is never a good idea. I would hate to see an individual shut out without any alternative.

If you decided at a later date, after you are 65 to join the Medicare system, you would have a premium penalty of 10% per year for each year you didn’t join. This can quickly amount to a significant increase in monthly premiums for the rest of your life. You would also have restrictions on when you could join during the year and a delay in the start of your benefits.

Senior Life Matters along with the Chautauqua County Veterans Services Agency will be hosting a program on Tuesday, January 14, at 3pm covering how Medicare and VA Benefits work together for you. We will be covering helpful information and answering personal questions related to Medicare, VA Benefits, TriCare for Life, ChampVA, and more at The Edgewood Commons building at 737 Falconer St. Jamestown, NY. Tiffany Erhard, Greg Carlson, and I will be speaking on the different programs and how they work together for Veterans and their families.

To make your reservation, call 716-665-8199 or visit and make your reservation on line.

I would strongly encourage you to join Medicare Part A & B. I would also invite you to attend the program next week January 14 at 3pm to learn more about VA and Medicare working together. You may find some answers to your questions and learn more about how these benefits work in general. I look forward to seeing you there!

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 716-720-9797 or e-mail her at