Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs came to Jacksonville’s American Legion to discuss the changing policies and plans for our community.

“Fayetteville’s VA Hospital has recently changed its name to include the whole area we actually service,” says Jeffery Melvin, Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System public affairs officer. “We are here to address some of the concerns of the local veteran community in regards to what is upcoming and the VA Mission Act.”

On June 6, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed legislation known as the VA Mission Act of 2018. This act affects many VA programs, including changes that make dramatic improvements to help veterans receive health care provided outside of VA facility. The VA mission act went into effect as of June 2019.

The Department of Veterans Affairs appointed Daniel L. Dücker as the new Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System Director five weeks ago. Dücker is a 33-year US Army Veteran and will be overseeing the coastal area. The Fayetteville VA Coastal Healthcare System serves a 19-county area of southeastern North Carolina. The medical center specializes in general medicine, surgery and mental health in conjunction with their 10 community clinics.

“Since taking over five weeks ago and reviewing what all the needs are within my area, I recognize the need in Jacksonville,” says Dücker. “Space is tight and doctors are stretched thin here. My goal is to change that. Next year we plan to expand the VA clinics throughout the coastal area. We’ve recently gotten the funding to begin looking for sites for a large scale VA hospital here. We're hoping to break ground soon and be fully operational in 3-5 years.”

As the meeting commenced and an overview of the plans for the Jacksonville area were unfolded, veterans were given reassurances that concerns were received and Dücker and his staff were aiming to fix these issues. Veterans were able to ask questions and speak with a variety of VA staff members about additional concerns.

“We're hoping that the Department of Defense and the VA can partner more,” Dücker stated in response to questions regarding the use of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune. “We are hoping to standardize healthcare so that when you get treated in one clinic here you can trust that it will be the same as when you get treated in another. One performance area in which I am especially worried about is mental health. We have to do better. We need better access for our veterans.”

The Jacksonville VA clinics are gaining four new providers in the immediate future to help move things in the right direction. There were 40,000 veterans in this community as of 2017, with a 10-14% increase in growth each year for the past several years. With those statistics in mind, the VA plans to revamp the system to allow for facilities that can accommodate the ever-growing number of veterans. Telehealth systems have already been implemented to allow more people to be seen until facilities can be established.

“While we understand that Telehealth is not for everyone, for those who are interested they should try to utilize the service for more expedient care. We are hoping this will alleviate some of the overflow and allow for faster results for our veterans.”

To learn more about the Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System or the VA Mission Act, please visit https://www.fayettevillenc.va.gov/index.asp.