Military vets can use both Medicare and VA health care

Personal Finance

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Allocating expenses into needs, goals and aspirations can help provide a better framework for managing your cash flow and living comfortably.

The VA health system provides care for 9 million veterans each year at its 1,250 facilities, including 172 medical centers and more than 1,000 outpatient sites across the country. However, it generally doesn’t cover care outside of those locations.

“With Medicare, you have much broader options,” said Elizabeth Gavino, founder of Lewin & Gavino in New York and an independent broker and general agent for Medicare plans. “You can have access to doctors and hospitals not near a VA facility, or you might want a second opinion from a doctor outside the system.”

The program encourages those using VA health care to sign up for Medicare when first eligible. Doing so has no impact on your VA coverage.

You get seven months to sign up; the enrollment period starts three months before the month in which you turn 65 and ends three months after your birthday month. For example, if the big day is June 15, your signup window begins March 1 and ends Sept. 30. And remember, signing up for Medicare does not affect your VA health-care benefits.

Medicare Part A, which provides hospital coverage, costs nothing. The standard premium for Part B, which is for outpatient care and medical equipment, is $135.50 for 2019. (Those with higher incomes pay more. See chart.)

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