Are you preparing for retirement? Before you leave the workforce, it’s important to revisit your finances. A strong financial plan protects you and your family as you age, but a lack of planning could leave you struggling in the later years.
If you’re a US veteran, there are a variety of benefits you can utilize during the senior years. However, veterans benefits don’t cover everything, so it’s important to understand which veterans benefits you’re eligible for and what gaps are left for you to cover.
Military veterans may be covered by VA health care or TRICARE after leaving the service. TRICARE is the government’s health insurance program for military members. Retirees and veterans with service-connected disabilities may be eligible for TRICARE. Veterans with Medicare are enrolled in TRICARE For Life, which serves as the secondary insurer.
VA health care provides care at 1,700 hospitals, clinics, and care facilities. Under the Veterans Choice Program, certain veterans may use VA health benefits at community-based healthcare providers. Many veterans are eligible for VA health care; however, veterans are subject to a priority system that determines their copay.
As a senior, you’ll also have health benefits through Medicare. Veterans can’t use Medicare at VA health centers, but they can apply Medicare benefits to care outside the VA system. If you’re in a low-priority group or don’t live near a VA health center, most of your care will come from community healthcare providers. For that reason, it’s important that senior veterans also have sufficient Medicare coverage.
Seniors with both TRICARE For Life and Medicare can skip Medigap and Part D plans, as TRICARE For Life includes prescription drug and cost-sharing coverage. However, seniors may want to consider a Medicare Advantage plan for dental and vision coverage, which neither Original Medicare nor TRICARE For Life offer.
The VA offers several resources to support seniors experiencing limitations at home.
Four grant programs help senior veterans build or buy an accessible home or make accessibility modifications to an existing home: the Specially Adapted Housing grant, Special Housing Adaptation grant, Temporary Residence Adaptation grant, and Home Improvements and Structural Alterations Grants. Learn more about these grants at USA.gov.
Senior veterans may also receive help with long-term care.
Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits supplement pension payments for disabled veterans. These payments may be used to pay for in-home help or nursing home care.
Depending on the priority group, veterans may also receive long-term care support. VA health care may fund care in nursing homes, community living centers, and state veterans homes, as well as in-home care for seniors aging in place. Only veterans enrolled in VA health care are eligible, and eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. Veterans should contact their VA social worker to determine eligibility for long-term care services.
Veterans are eligible for burial at national or state veterans cemeteries, including a headstone and marker at no cost. Veterans buried in private cemeteries may also receive a headstone and marker at no cost. However, veterans are responsible for placement costs in a private cemetery.
Veterans burial benefits don’t cover other costs associated with a funeral, such as a casket, embalming, viewing, or transportation of remains. The VA offers small allowances to offset funeral expenses, but not enough to pay for a funeral in full.
Since these expenses make up the bulk of funeral costs, senior veterans should make financial arrangements in advance. In the absence of a life insurance policy or cash to finance a funeral, burial insurance is the best way to pay for funeral arrangements. Burial insurance is available at a variety of coverage amounts; seniors may buy a policy with just enough coverage for funeral expenses or opt for more coverage to pay other outstanding debts.
Veterans benefits provide valuable support for seniors, but that doesn’t mean older veterans don’t have to worry about money matters. As you prepare for retirement, take stock of the veterans benefits you’re eligible for and identify the gaps that exist in your financial plan. By assessing where you stand, you can make the right financial decisions for your senior years.
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