You can have both Medicare and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, but Medicare and VA benefits do not work together. Medicare does not pay for any care that you receive at a VA facility.

  • In order for your VA coverage to cover your care, you must generally receive health care services at a VA facility.
  • In order for Medicare to cover your care, you must receive care at a Medicare-certified facility that works with your Medicare coverage.
  • VA benefits will not pay for Medicare cost-sharing (deductibles, copayments, coinsurances).

Note: If the VA authorizes services in a non-VA hospital, but does not pay for all the services you get during your hospital stay, Medicare may pay for Medicare-covered services the VA does not pay for.

If you chose not to enroll in Medicare and to keep your VA coverage, you will not have health insurance for facilities outside the VA health system. Some choose to enroll in Medicare Part A because it’s premium-free but turn down Part B because of the additional monthly premium. If you want to enroll in Medicare in the future, you may face penalties and would likely have to wait to enroll during the General Enrollment Period (GEP). You will not be eligible for the Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP) if you delay Medicare enrollment.

If you decide to enroll in Part B, you should do so during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Enrolling in Part B provides you with the flexibility of getting health care outside the VA system. Also, you may qualify for programs to help pay the Part B premium and Medicare cost-sharing. Remember that you can keep your VA health benefits to get coverage for health care services and items not covered by Medicare, such as over-the-counter medications, annual physical exams, and hearing aids. Also be sure to think over your drug coverage options when deciding whether or not to delay Medicare enrollment.