TRICARE vs VA Doctors

Every Veteran’s situation has variables involved, such as travel distance to care. Regardless, the VA recommends that veterans use VA doctors to treat any service-connected disability the Veteran has.

That isn’t always easy or reasonable, but all things being equal, it makes sense. When the VA treats you for service-connected disabilities, the treatment is free, and the VA stays in the loop for knowing what is going on with your care.

Old & New Rules

Old rules let Veterans who must drive 40 miles or more to be treated at a VA center opt to use primary care providers closer to home. Under the new law that went into effect in June 2019, Veterans only need to prove they must drive for at least 30 minutes to reach a VA center. If they can do that, they can use other health care providers such as TRICARE, Medicare, or different insurance for their VA appointments.

Rules also changed for Veterans who must wait 30 days or more for an appointment at a VA facility. Now they can seek private care if the wait for a VA appointment exceeds 20 days. Veterans have walk-in clinic access, too, but co-pays may be involved.

Going the TRICARE Route

If you qualify for treatment outside the VA system, the VA picks up the tab. However, it is your responsibility to take any documentation you receive and upload it into your records on MyHealtheVet and to let your primary VA doctor know.

Telling your VA primary care physician about this outside treatment helps him or her to verify the medical information you uploaded and to ensure that nothing gets overlooked in your care.

Naturally, if you are seeking medical attention or care for conditions that are not service-related, or are not yet service-connected, you have options. You can seek treatment at any health care provider covered under your private insurance or Medicare coverage. The VA has no say about that.

However, you may want to receive VA care for these medical problems too. You can, if you meet eligibility qualifications, such as having a service-connected condition or being a Veteran with low income.

The Takeaway

It can be cumbersome to have different physicians providing care for various conditions. Sometimes it leads to overtreatment or under treatment, so it is always good to have one provider managing the totality of your medical regime or at least be aware of it. This prevents potential treatment problems and helps ensure you receive appropriate care.

However, receiving medical care from treatment providers you feel comfortable with and who treat you as a person instead of a symptom, a body part, or a number, can outweigh what makes sense on paper. Let your best interests dictate your decisions based on your available options.

As always, if you have questions, feel free to use the always free resources of Strategic Veteran. Call us today at 800-761-9004.