|By Amy Jeter, The Virginian-Pilot|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Most of these veterans either haven't enrolled for health care they can receive through the
Some are signed up for VA health care but could use
"A lot of people assume that if you're a veteran, you have VA health care. And that's simply not the case," said
However, VA officials say most uninsured veterans are eligible for VA health care.
"There is no way to know for sure as to how many nonenrolled veterans will gain insurance through the ACA,"
At least one
As in the rest of the nation, most of
For VA health care, veterans are categorized into eight priority groups. Preference is given to those with injuries or conditions related to their service or who have low incomes. Veterans in lower-priority groups may have to pay copayments for some services.
Some veterans who retired after serving at least 20 years are covered by
Less than 4 percent are enrolled in
About 1 in 10 of the nation's 12.5 million nonelderly veterans have no health insurance coverage and report that they don't use VA health care, according to the
Uninsured veterans tend to be unmarried with lower education levels, research shows. They are more likely to be black and younger than 45 than their insured counterparts and less likely to have full-time work or be employed.
More than 40 percent of uninsured veterans served at some point in the past two decades, including in the wars in the
They are more likely to report that they have unmet health needs and have delayed care due to cost than veterans who are insured.
"Some of them, just like people in the regular population, they just feel like they don't need health insurance," said
About 12,300 of
Some of those veterans may qualify for VA health care but not realize it.
A representative from the
"The larger concern are people who are simply not eligible for VA benefits because they may have less than an honorable discharge," said
About 8,800 lower-income
That option is most viable for veterans who live far from a VA center and wish to seek some of their care closer to their homes with a provider that accepts
Veterans enrolled only in the VA system must receive health care from one of its providers unless the treatment is unavailable because of a lack of available specialists, unusual wait times, or extraordinary distances from the veteran's home. Care from another provider must be authorized on a case-by-case basis.
"While there's a lot of VA hospitals, there's a lot more communities and geography in which a VA hospital may be fairly far away," said Dr.
While veterans with VA benefits are allowed to be enrolled in other programs, VA officials encourage them to get most of their health care through the VA health system because its providers have access to veterans' full medical history in their electronic records.
"Additionally, the system should eliminate redundant tests, save money, and in the case of an emergency, save precious time locating a patient's health related information," Bailey, of the
Often, VA doctors are better equipped to treat veterans.
"Private providers often don't understand the conditions and some of the circumstances that veterans come with and may not know some of the specific nuances of their military-related conditions," said Kizer, a former undersecretary of health for the VA.
Veterans also may choose to supplement VA benefits with private insurance plans sold through the marketplaces set up by the health care law. However, if they do, they can't get discounts in the form of a tax credit or other government assistance because they already have coverage.
The marketplaces also present options for 19,800 of
Nationally, "for that 1.6 or so million veterans who aren't eligible for VA care and don't qualify for
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