Since I work for the Veteran’s Administration (VA), the one thing that I am asked all the time by veterans is, “Why does the VA bill my private insurance? I thought my care was supposed to be free?”
I used to think that as well, but over the years I have learned that it is free – for certain things. Remember, nothing in life is 100% free.
To start obtaining treatment, you need to register with the VA hospital closest to you. When you register with the VA hospital, you should always fill out a 1010EZ form, even though it is not required. This form, along with your financial information and DD 214, will help to determine if you are required to pay a co-pay and how much for your non-service connected disabilities. If you have third party insurance, for example Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, always let the VA know this information. If your appointment is not related to a service connected (SC) issue, then your insurance will be billed. Any money that is collected from the insurance company will offset your copay. In most cases, you will not have to pay the copay.
If you notice that a service connect related appointment was billed to your insurance company, you need to call the facility that you were seen at and ask them to review your specific date of service because you believe it is related to your service connect disability. Keep in mind that if you are in the process of getting your disability approved, it is NOT yet related to your disability. Once you get the actual award letter with the effective date, the hospital should go back to all claims from the award date forward and review each claim. If the claim is deemed related, then the insurance company will be refunded any money that was received and any copays that you paid will be refunded back to you. This is where the “free medical” comes in. Any appointment, treatment or prescription related to your awarded service connected disability is free.
In addition, if you have recently been discharged from active duty and were deployed in a combat zone, you are covered under what is called “combat vet status.” This means that anything that COULD be related to your being deployed in a war zone is covered at no cost to you. For example, back injury, knees, etc. If you come in for a broken wrist you got from a fight, it isn’t covered under this status.
Each hospital has their billing done by a consolidated patient account center, and if you have any questions about something billed to your insurance company, call the accounts management department and talk to them.
Another thing that should be known is that the monies collected from the insurance companies goes to the hospital 100%. This money does not pay for the salaries of the employees at the VA, but it is used to fund extra programs for the veterans at that specific hospital.