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Medicare for Veterans

Veterans – Thank you for your service. Now let us be of service to you and walk you through how Medicare works with your veteran benefits. Tricare for Life and VA benefits each offer different coverage and each work with Medicare differently. 

Read carefully because there are common mistakes we see veterans make that result in lifelong Medicare penalties.

How Medicare Works with VA Benefits

The VA and Medicare are completely separate systems that offer healthcare services. Because of this you are not required to enroll in Medicare if you have VA benefits. Perhaps you live next to a VA hospital and use it for all of your care and prescriptions.

However our recommendation is to still sign up for Medicare Parts A & B even if you have VA benefits. This gives you the most flexibility and prevents the worry of any penalties down the road.

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Is the VA Creditable Coverage for Medicare?

VA benefits do NOT count as creditable coverage for Part B. This means you will have a penalty if you sign up for Part B later down the road.

VA benefits DO count as creditable coverage for Medicare Part D. You can also likely get cheaper costs for your prescriptions by filling them through the VA.

Warning: VA Benefits are Not Creditable Coverage for Part B
If you fail to sign up for Part B, you’ll have a lifetime penalty added onto your monthly premium if you ever decide to enroll in Part B in the future.

How Medicare Works with Tricare For Life

Tricare For Life acts similar to a Medicare Supplement plan because it is secondary to Original Medicare. This means that you do have to be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B in order to use your Tricare For Life benefits! We 

You Must Have Medicare Part A & Part B to use Tricare For Life.
Tricare is your secondary insurance, so it is unable to work without Medicare as primary.

Special Plans Designed for Veterans

Since veterans are able to get their prescription drugs from the VA, there are Medicare Advantage plans designed to give veterans additional benefits. They do this by allocating the money that would typically go towards offering you a prescription drug benefit and using that money to provide additional medical benefits to you.

We often see these veteran focused plans give a Part B giveback which goes directly back onto your Social Security check.


Do Veterans Get Medicare for Free?​

No, there is nothing about being a veteran that affects the amount you pay for Medicare or Medicare supplemental plans. The only way to get Medicare Part A for free is to work 40 quarters in the US and the only way to get Medicare Part B for free is to have a low enough income to qualify for a Medicare Savings Program.

Do I Need Part B if I Have Tricare?​

Yes, you need to have Medicare Part B. Tricare will be your secondary coverage (like a Medicare Supplement), so it needs to have Medicare Part B as the primary insurance in order to work.

Do I Need Part B if I Have VA Benefits?​

Technically you are not required to take Part B if you use the VA for all of your healthcare. In practice, we definitely recommend getting Part B when you are first eligible. 

Since the VA does not count as creditable coverage, you will have a Part B penalty if you decide to sign up for Part B later on down the road. 


Medicare has some unique interactions with Tricare and VA benefits that veterans need to be aware of. If you have questions about how Medicare works with your unique situation, schedule an appointment with us. We’ll be happy to help you.

Sylvia Gordon, aka Medicare Mama®, is an expert on all things Medicare and Social Security. She is the 2nd Generation here at The Medicare Family and has served on the advisory boards of major insurance companies like UnitedHealthcare®, Cigna, and Anthem. In her free time, she can be found taking care of her animals (dogs, goats, peacocks, chickens), and reading a good book. Learn More.
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