HAMPTON, Va. - Thousands of local veterans rely on the Hampton VA Medical Center for all kinds of treatment. The Hampton VA Medical Center's executive director told News 3 about 82,000 veterans were served across their system this past year.
A new recommendation by the VA would involve major changes to how veterans get their healthcare.
Air Force veteran and cancer survivor Kyalunna Lynch makes the frequent drive to the Hampton VA Medical Center from Yorktown and will soon be commuting from Suffolk.
"I got a secondary off my cancer. It’s my autoimmune system deficiency,” Lynch said. “I come here every three weeks to get treatment.”
Meanwhile, Hampton veteran Ron Fanning travels just across town to go to the medical center.
“It’s just a godsend,” Fanning said. “[It’s] really convenient. I hope they don’t move.”
However, the new recommendation includes closing the Hampton VA Medical Center and opening two new VA medical centers in Newport News and Norfolk.
“What they came up with here was looking at our infrastructure, looking at our technology, looking at our access and looking at where the demand is in terms of our veteran population,” Hampton VA Medical Center Executive Director Dr. Taquisa Simmons said.
According to the VA, Hampton has one of two VA medical centers in the northeast market, which includes central and eastern Virginia and northeast North Carolina. The market is also projecting a more than 13 percent rise in enrolled veterans by the 2029 fiscal year.
Two of the three largest populations of enrolled veterans include Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.
“Half of our veteran population is on the Southside of Hampton Roads,” Simmons said. ”To have facilities on both sides would be very helpful.”
Part of the justification, according to the study, includes aging facilities in Hampton and veterans having to deal with tunnel traffic coming from the Southside.
“Having more facilities will create better access so that there’s not one main funnel point that you have to travel bridges, tunnels and things of that nature,” Simmons said.
“If one gets built in Norfolk, that definitely would help a lot with the commute because I have to come here at 8 o’clock in the morning, so that’s traffic time,” Lynch said.
“The VA needs some improvement. I know the building is old,” Fanning said. “It would be a slight disadvantage, but overall, I think we can get used to it just like we’d get use to anything else.”
Simmons said it's all about providing care at convenience to those who've served us.
“This is exciting for us. The possibility is exciting,” Simmons said. “Hopefully it’s only going to get better in the years to come.”
According to Simmons, the next steps for the recommendation are in the hands of the AIR commission, which is made up of subject matter experts in areas including infrastructure and access.
The commission will look over the recommendation for a year, and make any changes or revisions, if necessary, before sending it to President Joe Biden and the United States Congress.