Which veterans in Hampton Roads can see private doctors under new VA healthcare law?

Posted at 5:28 PM, Aug 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-07 17:28:53-04

On Thursday, President Obama signed into law the new "Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014,” bringing $17 billion of emergency funds into the VA health care system.

It’s all to help fix long appointment wait times and quality of care problems in the wake of the recent VA scandal.

So, what does all that money mean for veterans here in Hampton Roads?

NewsChannel 3 has learned about $5 billion will go towards hiring more doctors and nurses to staff VA hospitals.

The hope is you will be waiting less time to get an appointment.

At the same time, $10 billion will also be going toward paying for private care for veterans.

So who will be eligible to see these private doctors?

The biggest factor is distance.

If you live more than 40 miles away from a VA medical facility that has the type of doctor you need, you will be eligible for private care.

According to the law, it’s physical miles, not miles you have to drive.

So how far is 40 miles?

NewsChannel 3 mapped the two VA hospitals in Hampton and Richmond that serve our area of Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina.

All seven cities in Hampton Roads fall into the 40 mile radius, so the majority of local veterans will still have to see VA doctors.

The only Virginia veterans who will get private care live southwest of Franklin, and up on the Eastern Shore.

In North Carolina, most veterans live more than 40 miles away from these VA hospitals and would qualify for private care-- with the exception of Moyock and South Mills.

But, there is a catch.

The VA also takes into account their three outpatient clinics in Virginia Beach, Elizabeth City and Emporia.

With those included, almost every single veteran in our area lives less than 40 miles away from one of these locations.

They all provide primary care and mental health services--so if you want to see one of those types of doctors, you will still be going to the VA facility nearest to you.

Don’t give up all hope, though, because there is another factor-- appointment wait times.

According to this new law, any veteran that has to wait longer than 30 days to see a VA doctor for any reason will automatically qualify for private care, regardless of where they live.