Please explain the difference between the military and VA systems of health care.
The transition from receiving care within the military health care system into the Veterans Health Administration can be challenging and at times confusing. Therefore, it is helpful for caregivers to understand some basic differences between the two.
Military health care, known as TRICARE, is operated through DoD and provides medical care for active duty, activated guard and reserve, and retired members of the military and their dependents. The VA’s Veterans Health Administration provides health care for enrolled veterans and their eligible family members through a network of hospitals and clinics across the country. The veteran for whom you care might be able to receive health care while waiting for the benefits during the veteran’s transition. Medically retired servicemembers have eligibility for both TRICARE and VA healthcare. They can choose by an episode of care which healthcare system they want to use.
DoD and the VA work together but have different eligibility criteria, health care benefits, and costs.
What is VA health care?
The VA health care system provides medical benefits to all enrolled veterans that include preventive and primary care, outpatient and inpatient services, and prescription drugs. Based on your veteran’s priority status, the VA provides additional services such as nursing home and dental care and makes these additional services available to other veterans as space and resources permit. Inpatient and outpatient care also are provided in the private sector to eligible dependents of veterans under CHAMPVA.
Even though the VA is the largest health care system in the U.S., all VA medical centers or clinics are different. Your benefits are the same but how and where they may be delivered might vary by clinic, hospital, and region.