Tricare and VA Benefits Comparison Part 1

Part 2 will be Transitioning from Tricare to the VA


When you were on active duty, you used TRICARE. You may have received care at military hospitals and clinics or from TRICARE-authorized civilian providers. Now that you’re separated from active duty you may only be eligible for health care from Veteran’s Affairs (VA).

TRICARE and VA Benefit Comparison

You can compare health care benefits available through TRICARE and Veterans’ Affairs (VA) below.

TRICARE Benefits VA Benefits
Your services may vary depending on your health plan. Your eligibility and copayment depend on:

  • Discharge,
  • Service-connection, or
  • Income
Your TRICARE health plan’s rules and costs will apply.


Type of Care TRICARE Benefits VA Benefits
Outpatient Services
  • Ambulance services
  • Ancillary services, like laboratory, X-ray
  • Emergency care in military or civilian facilities
  • Eye exams and glasses
  • Home health care
  • Maternity and obstetric services
  • Medical or surgical care, like individual provider services
  • Mental and behavioral health
  • Pediatric services
Inpatient Services
  • Emergency care in military or civilian facilities
  • Hospitalization
  • Mental and behavioral health
  • Skilled nursing facility care
  • Substance abuse
  • Surgical care
  • Centers of excellence, like multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, blind rehabilitation, mental health
  • Emergency care
  • Hospitalization
  • Nursing home
  • Medical care
  • Mental and behavioral health
  • Polytrauma centers
  • Surgical, like reconstructive and plastic surgery as a result of disease or trauma
  • Substance abuse
Preventive Services
  • Health education and counseling
  • Hearing screening
  • Immunizations
  • Physical exams
  • Screening tests, like mammograms, pap smears, cardiac screenings, prostate exams, colorectal exams, cholesterol, blood pressure, skin cancer
  • Vision screening
  • Health care assessments
  • Health education programs
  • Immunizations
  • Physical exams
  • Screening tests
Prescriptions The TRICARE pharmacy program covers prescriptions. They’re available via military pharmacies, network pharmacies, and home delivery. A VA provider must write the prescription.  They’re generally only available under VA’s national formulary.
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Medical supplies
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Medical and surgical supplies
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Sensory-neural aids (i.e. eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids)
Dental Care While on active duty, you get your care at dental treatment facilities or through the Active Duty Dental Program.

Family members and members of the National Guard or Reserve are eligible for the TRICARE Dental Program.

As a retiree, you can purchase care for you and your family through the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program.

VA dental care rules differ a lot from the medical care rules.  Visit for a list.

Note: If you’re a recently discharged veteran, you must apply to VA within 90 days of discharge.  You may be able to get a one time correction of dental conditions. Some exceptions apply.


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