The Four Potential Needs of Aging Veterans


The veteran population continues to age. In fact, 18 percent of Medicare-eligible Americans served as veterans.1 More than half of Gulf War veterans are over age 45 and Vietnam veterans are rapidly entering old age.2 Veterans may have different health options and needs than civilian prospects and clients.

Need #1: Help Navigating Government Benefits

Since the Pilgrims’ arrival on the Mayflower3, America has recognized the need to care for those who have served and sacrificed. Abraham Lincoln, after the conclusion of the Civil War, recognized this when he said, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his window, and his orphan.” The Veterans Affairs (VA) Department, established in 1930, grew out of the recognition of the country’s duty to help veterans after they’ve served.

Veterans, depending on their length of service, financial need and service-related disability, may be entitled to additional healthcare benefits from the government through three main avenues: VA Healthcare, TRICARE for Life (TFL) and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA).

VA Healthcare

VA Healthcare, America’s largest integrated health system4, provides primary and specialized care to veterans based on service and qualification of financial status or service-related disability. Veterans are put into priority groups which distribute copays and cost-sharing on a sliding scale. Group 1 has service-connected disabilities that are 50% or more disabling and are determined by the VA to be unemployable due to their service-connected conditions. Group 1 does not pay copays or cost share. All other groups have some copays or cost-sharing. Veterans using VA Healthcare receive treatment at VA healthcare facilities.

TRICARE for Life (TFL)

TFL is for retired military members who are on Medicare Parts A and B and their spouses/dependents. It works like a Medigap or Medicare Supplement plan but with prescription drug coverage and can be used anywhere Medicare is accepted.

CHAMPVA

CHAMPVA provides healthcare for veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected injury or for spouses or dependents after a veteran’s death due to either a service-connected disability or active duty. It provides rich coverage for those who are Medicare eligible.

Need #2: Support for Social Isolation or Loneliness

Loneliness can affect up to 43 percent of older adults5 and has been shown to be as dangerous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.6 Veterans may be more susceptible to loneliness due to the military’s value of self-reliance.7 Moreover, veterans may view themselves as weak or inadequate if they need to seek mental health treatment.8 This could explain why the suicide rate for veterans remains 1.5 times higher for veterans than non-vets when adjusted for age and sex.9

While some vets may experience loneliness, it’s important to recognize that veterans are complex and multidimensional just like anyone else. Combat clichés by not making unsubstantiated assumptions. Rather, learn how to assess for loneliness post-enrollment using our on-demand webinar, The 3 Crucial Questions to Ask During Client Follow-Ups.

Need #3: Resources for Food Insecurity

Food insecurity, defined as having limited or uncertain access to food, can pose serious health risks such as heart disease, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.10

According to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, 20 percent of its households served include a veteran or active military service member11, which is why Humana teamed up with Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to develop Uniting to Combat Hunger, a campaign to raise awareness and food for veterans across the country.

Again, don’t make assumptions about any one veteran based on general statistics. Be sure to treat each and every veteran, client and prospect with respect and dignity. Leverage the Bold Goal Toolkit to conduct regular post-enrollment assessments for food insecurity.

Need #4: Address Deployment/Combat-Related Health Issues

Veterans, depending on where they were stationed and what job they had within the military, may have been exposed to particular health hazards. It’s important that Agents stay sensitive to service-related health issues if the information is shared, but not assume issues are a given. Service experiences vary based on a host of factors: wartime or peace time, branch, role, gender, race, sexuality, location, and duration. Certain mental health issues may also appear later in life.12

How Agents Can Serve Vets

The first step in helping vets? Education. This article is a good start, but it’s just the beginning. Humana has created a veritable boot camp of veteran resources and trainings such as the Veteran Healthcare Training webinar, Veteran Roadshow events, pre-approved customizable veteran-facing sales and marketing materials on the Marketing Resource Center, MarketPoint University modules and courses and new Ignite content. Learn more about veteran healthcare benefits, understand how to better connect with veterans and discover Humana’s veteran efforts.

The next step? Tailor your approach for individual veterans. Get to know who they are and what they need in both the near and distant future. Figure out how you can best help them whether that’s by lending an empathetic ear, pointing them in the right direction for veteran resources or enrolling them in an insurance plan. When Agents help veterans, they do something huge: serve those who served the nation.

1 National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics population model.

2 https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/56/1/1/2605294

3 https://www.va.gov/about_va/vahistory.asp

4 https://www.va.gov/health/

5 https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/06/98644/loneliness-linked-serious-health-problems-and-death-among-elderly 

6 https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/americas-loneliness-epidemic-is-more-lethal-than-smoking-heres-what-you-can-do-to-combat-isolation.html

7 https://journal-veterans-studies.org/articles/abstract/10.21061/jvs.v4i1.78/

8 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201805/eradicating-mental-health-stigma-in-the-military-and-beyond

9 https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/2019/2019_National_Veteran_Suicide_Prevention_Annual_Report_508.pdf

10 https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/importance-of-good-nutrition/index.html

11 https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-blog/fighting-for-veterans-1

12 https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/56/1/82/2605179