Author Topic: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?  (Read 1004 times)


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VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« on: September 29, 2023, 12:04:49 PM »
I never thought too much about VA health care, as I didn't have any disabilities, and my income was above the qualifications limits.

But Congress recently passed something called the PACT Act, which qualified me for VA Health Care, but I had to enroll pretty rapidly.

So I'm now enrolled in VA health care, and waiting on all of the official information on what that means.  I live only a couple miles away from a major VA hospital, so I have easy access to it.

Are there any experiences, recommendations, or gotchas about VA Health I should be aware of for those who use it?


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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2023, 02:34:07 PM »
I use Northern CA VA care and it's been fine for me. I'm currently on Medicare and use the VA exclusively unless they can't provide service then they send you to community care partners. It's nice because I just pay part A and part B but no other premiums. Based on income I do get billed some for services, but so far not much at all especially compared to what it would cost with just Medicare or a supplemental plan. It definitely doesn't hurt to try it and if you have other health insurance they will bill that first.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2023, 12:15:26 PM »
I go to the Boise, Idaho VA and have for 17 years since I left active duty. I go there exclusively for my healthcare and I must say itís been pretty good. I can get into appointments reasonably well and if itís something thatís urgent they can get you in sooner more times than not. Itís convenient because I can pick up all my medications right there on-site and not have to go to a separate pharmacy.

Because of my VA disability rating from my service-connected injuries, it costs me nothing; I pay no premiums, I pay no co-pays for visits/specialists/prescriptions, no matter what.  I had a car accident back in 2017 and it tore my labrum in my left shoulder and I had to have shoulder surgery. They gave me the option of having it done there at the VA hospital or I could have it done in a local hospital out in the community and get it done faster. I had it done at St. Lukeís in Boise and the VA covered the entire cost of preop, the surgery, all after care, and I did all my physical therapy at the VA hospital. Final cost: $0.

The doctors Iíve had have been very good and understand that veterans are dealing with issues that most civilians donít. All in all, research your local VA, but I highly recommend it.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2023, 12:17:17 PM by Jaybo »

Michael in ABQ

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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2023, 02:41:45 PM »
I've been a few times over the years. In one case I got setup with a new primary care provider and she ordered a pretty comprehensive blood panel and actually went through the results line by line with me (everything was basically fine and within normal ranges). Normally I'm used to a provider just saying "everything was fine" and moving on. The downside was that provider was gone within a year and it took weeks to get the appointment for the blood draw and then the actual appointment with the doctor.

A couple of years later when I needed to see a specialist it once again took a couple of weeks to get in and their diagnosis wasn't that helpful. I ended up seeing another provider who had an independent practice and ended up providing much better care.

Overall my experience was mixed. It's a giant bureaucracy and depending on your status (service connected disabled veterans get higher priority to be seen than others) it could take a while to be seen. On the other hand, it's not like most other providers offer very timely appointments, especially for a specialist. Their IT systems aren't the best as far as accessing your medical records. However, I was trying to get some old records from another VA hospital where I was seen after my first deployment almost 20 years ago and they guy I talked to found them within a minute or two and had paper copies in the mail to me by the next day.


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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2023, 07:48:28 AM »
I've also had mixed results in NY and NJ.  Currently I'm using the VA for my primary care but for specialists I go private. 

I feel like there is a reluctance within the VA to make a formal diagnosis and to prescribe medications and/or care.  For example not fully investigating causes of pain with x-rays, MRI's, etc. and just instructing you to take Ibuprofen .  Also have not had good experience with mental health services there. 

Chris Pascale

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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2023, 01:28:43 PM »
In Louisiana it was too far from my home to do anything more than get checked in.

On Long Island I've had mostly good experiences.

Overall, as a hospital system, I'd highly recommend the VA.


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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2023, 01:37:18 PM »
PTF. I've had limited experience so far. At first my local facility told me that I was eligible for care, but then I went in to register and they told me no.

While I was in there to register I witnessed a seemingly reasonable man arguing with multiple administrators about getting the runaround with his care. It wasn't a good first impression for me.

Six months later I found out that I had been eligible, but just needed to pay copays.

Now I have a disability rating so I'm eligible for VA care w/o copays. I plan to have them take over my single prescription and basic services, but I'll keep my PPO insurance for anything major.

Chris Pascale

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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2023, 11:43:44 PM »
I witnessed a seemingly reasonable man arguing with multiple administrators about getting the runaround

I could tell a couple stories about trying to deal with certain individuals and it would make the VA look deservedly bad, but the truth is it's actually a very impressive national system that runs very well.

Should there be asbestos and lead? No.

Should I be able to drink the water? Yes.

Should that lady at the HR front desk have repeatedly put my name on the list to keep getting calls to be offered a housekeeping job, even after I very nicely explained to 3 different people (then wrote a letter and several emails) that I'm a professional accountant in graduate school who is not looking to do WG-01 work at this time, and that these calls were basically harassment at this point? No.

Should some weird person at the respiratory clinic tried to bully me into an unpaid medical study in exchange for getting a pulmonary function test? No.

But for all of this, it's way better than Good Samaritan Hospital near me, but nowhere near as good as SUNY Stony Brook Medical Center, which makes sense. The charity-based hospital is bad; the government-run one is flawed; the well-funded, state-of-the-art university hospital is fantastic.


  • Bristles
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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2023, 12:10:35 AM »
I originally enrolled in the VA just to avoid the ACA penalty. To stay enrolled, I had to do one thing per year so I started doing an annual physical. So far copays are minimal, $50/specialist, $8/prescription.

It works for me.
1. I hate choosing medical providers out of the whole long list of who's available in my area. The limited options at the VA work for me. For someone more choosy or who uses more medical care or needs more specialists, that may not be a good fit. (When I was not pleased with the assigned PCP, I asked for a change. It happened, the new one is fabulous and retiring this year. Boo)

2. I travel around the country a lot. It's reassuring to know I can go to an ED at the nearest VA and they will probably be able to pull up my history. This happened last year with a concerning and time-critical event. It was helpful that they could compare a previous EKG to the current one.

3. On the rare occasion I go there, I enjoy being around a lot of military people. It's easy to chat with them and we have something in common.  That feeling is one of the few things I miss.

4. I did some of my nursing clinicals at a different VA facility. I did not tell my preceptors that I was a vet and was disturbed by some of the comments, judgments and treatment I witnessed. So, as probably at any facility, if possible, a personal advocate might be helpful.

I used to work at the university hospital in my city. Turns out a lot of the doctors also worked a day or two per week at the local VA center.



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Re: VA Health Care- experiences & recomendations?
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2023, 08:52:22 AM »
Update on my end:  I got my first appointment scheduled, which is the gating factor for being covered for anything.  Except the first appointment available was for February. 

I think I'll keep my Kaiser coverage for next year, but try to utilize the VA whenever needed to see if I'm comfortable dropping Kaiser for 2025. 

I have a friend that's a cardiologist at the VA hospital.  According to him there's a lot of people that keep their regular coverage, but use the VA for any prescription needs due to the low copays.