If you are a veteran–meaning you served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for a required period of time and received an honorable discharge or release–you may be eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. VA benefits are administered by the federal government and include pensions, educational stipends, and health care, among other benefits. It is important to know that VA benefits do not work with Medicare, though you can be enrolled in both.

VA health benefits cover care provided mainly in VA medical centers, VA outpatient clinics, and VA nursing homes. Veterans can receive care at any VA facility. Health benefits include coverage for:

  • Medical and mental health care (including substance abuse treatment)
  • Home health care
  • Nursing home care
  • Durable medical equipment (DME)
  • Medicare-excluded items (including over-the-counter medications and supplies, annual physical exams, hearing aids, and eyeglasses under certain circumstances)

Eligibility for VA benefits depends on several factors, including:

  • Existence of a service-connected disability
  • Exposure related to service
  • Income

If you are eligible for VA benefits, you must apply with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to be enrolled in the program. Care for all disabilities related to your military service is free, regardless of your income. The cost of other medical care depends on the priority group the VA assigns you.

VA health benefits always provide primary coverage in VA facilities. If you have VA benefits and become eligible for Medicare, you should consider the benefits of both types of insurance and whether you should enroll in Medicare now or delay enrollment—and the potential consequences of delayed enrollment.