United States Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Health Care Upstate New York - VISN 2

Veteran Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
VA Health Care Upstate New York is one of 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VISN 2 provides comprehensive inpatient and outpatient health care, limited community living centers and domiciliary care, to eligible veterans of the U.S. Armed Services. Health care services are provided through a network of medical centers, community outpatient clinics, community living centers and domiciliaries located throughout upstate New York.

If you have additional questions Contact Us. You can also visit VA's national Inquiry Service for more information.

  1. How do I enroll for VA health care?


  2. How can I obtain a copy of my DD214 Report of Separation (or equivalent form) in order to proceed with enrollment?


  3. How can I obtain a copy of other military records?


  4. Were my military records lost in the 1973 "St. Louis Fire?"


  5. How can I access VA healthcare services?


  6. How do I obtain emergency services?


  7. What is VA policy on obtaining emergency services when traveling outside Upstate New York?


  8. What services does VA Health Care Upstate New York provide to its members?


  9. Is there someone I can call with any health care question?


  10. What charges am I responsible for?


  11. Can copayments be waived?


  12. How do I obtain services when outside upstate New York?


  13. How do I obtain services not covered in the benefits package?


  14. What charges will I be responsible for if I obtain services outside the network?


  15. How can I appeal decisions made by VA?


  16. How do I change my assignment of a primary facility?


  17. How do I change my assignment of a primary care doctor?


  18. How do I know that my doctor is qualified?


  19. Do people other than doctors treat patients?


  20. What are my rights and responsibilities as a patient?


  21. How can I participate more in my health care?


  22. What VA employment opportunities are available?


  23. Does VA cover prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids?


  24. I want to write to my provider or a VA employee via e-mail. Can you give me their e-mail address?


  25. How do I obtain my medical information or information on a family member for a genealogy search?


  26. Is my spouse/family member eligible for VA health care benefits?


  27. My non VA provider has prescribed medications for me that are listed on your formulary as class 3 medications. What does this mean? Can I get them at the VA?


  28. What is TRICARE?


  29. Does the VA Medical Center accept TRICARE?


  30. Do VA Medical Center's accept TRICARE Prime?


  31. Where can patients get more information about these programs?



Question 1. How do I enroll for VA health care?

Answer Veterans can get an application by visiting, calling or writing the nearest VA healthcare facility or benefits office. They can submit the completed application in person or by mail. Veterans can also enroll electronically using the new Online 10-10EZ. Veterans can apply for enrollment at any facility, at any time, during any year.

The initial enrollment will be confirmed in writing. After initial application, the enrollment system requires that most veterans provide the VA with a means test annually detailing their gross income. For more information, contact your nearest VA facility.
Question 2. How can I obtain a copy of my DD214 Report of Separation (or equivalent form) in order to proceed with enrollment?

Answer The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Military Personnel Records (MPR) ** is the repository of millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century. NPRC (MPR) also stores medical treatment records of retirees from all services, as well as records for dependent and other persons treated at Naval medical facilities. Information from the records is made available upon written request (with signature and date) to the extent allowed by law. The DD Form 214, Report of Separation, is filed in the Official Military Personnel File. Complete instructions for obtaining a copy of your DD 214 may be found under Official Military Personnel File including Active Duty Health Record, Services for veterans, next-of-kin, or the veteran's representative. For more information about enrollment, visit our Online Enrollment Guide.

Question 3. How can I obtain a copy of other military records?

Answer As noted above, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Military Personnel Records (MPR) ** is the repository of millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century. Information from the records is made available upon written request (with signature and date) to the extent allowed by law.

Question 4. Were my military records lost in the 1973 "St. Louis Fire?"

Answer A fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis on July 12, 1973, destroyed about 80 percent of the records for Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. About 75 percent of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from "Hubbard" through "Z" discharged between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964, were also destroyed.

Millions of records, especially medical records, had been withdrawn from all three groups and loaned to the Department of Veterans Affairs prior to the fire. The fact that one's records are not in NPRC files at a particular time does not mean the records were destroyed in the fire.

For more information on the fire visit the VA Fact Sheet.

 Question 5. How can I access VA healthcare services?

Answer Veterans that are enrolled may obtain services by contacting their primary care provider, the VA TelCare Program at 1-888-838-7890, or by reporting to one of the numerous VA healthcare facilities located throughout the Network. Visit our Facilities page for a comprehensive list of VISN 2 Medical Centers and Outpatient Clinics.

Question 6. How do I obtain emergency services?

Answer Veterans that are enrolled with the VA Healthcare Upstate New York may obtain emergency care at any of the following VA Medical Centers:

Albany
113 Holland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
(518)626-5000

Bath
76 Veterans Avenue
Bath, NY 14810
(607)664-4000
 
Buffalo
3495 Bailey Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14215
(716)834-9200
Canandaigua
400 Fort Hill Avenue
Canandaigua, NY 14424
(716)394-2000
(No emergency services; Outpatient clinic hours 8 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.)
Syracuse
800 Irving Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13210
(315)425-4400

Question 7. What is VA policy on obtaining emergency services when traveling outside Upstate New York?

Answer When traveling outside Upstate New York, veterans may receive emergency services at any VA healthcare facility that provides emergency care, throughout the United States. If a VA medical facility does not exist in the area where you are traveling, you should seek medical care from the closest non-VA medical care facility. If you are admitted to that hospital for inpatient care, ask an official at the facility to notify the closest VA medical care facility of your admission. Notification does not in itself guarantee VA payment.

In general, emergency care received from non-VA healthcare facilities and care received outside the United States may be covered if —
  • the care is necessary for the treatment of a service connected disability
  • is emergent
  • VA facilities are not readily available
All three minimum criteria listed above must be met in order for the VA Health Care Upstate New York to consider payment of non-VA health care. Additional criteria must also be met.

Question 8. What services does VA Health Care Upstate New York provide to its members?

Answer View the latest summary of VA Coverage of Health Care Services.


 Question 9. Is there someone I can call with any health care question?

Answer TelCare is VA's Telephone Care Program sponsored by the VA Health Care Upstate New York member VA Medical Centers and Clinics. A VA representative is "on the line" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you with any medical or eligibility questions you may have. We know that occasionally you have health care or other questions that, if addressed rapidly, can put your mind at ease or quickly solve a problem. That is the reason why we've created this service, specifically designed for Upstate New York Veterans.

Wherever you are, whenever you need help, dial toll-free, anytime:
VA Upstate New York TelCare: 1-888-838-7890

Question 10. What charges am I responsible for?

Answer Most veterans' care is free of charge, however some copayments do apply. Please see the Copayments and Charges page for details and current amounts.

VA also bills and receives payments from insurance carriers to recover costs associated with providing healthcare to veterans for their nonservice-connected conditions. This includes policies held by veterans, their spouses, guardians, etc. Veterans should provide their insurance cards at the time they receive care.

  Question 11. Can copayments be waived?

Answer Veterans may file for a waiver of copayment charges by contacting the Veteran Contact Center at 1-888-823-9656.

Question 12. How do I obtain services when outside Upstate New York?

Answer Enrolled veterans may receive care from any of the over 1,300 VA healthcare facilities located throughout the United States.

Question 13. How do I obtain services not covered in the benefits package?

Answer Veterans may obtain services not covered in the benefits package through private healthcare providers at their own expense.

Question 14. What charges will I be responsible for if I obtain services outside the network?

Answer Veterans that receive healthcare services at VA facilities outside Upstate New York are not subject to any additional charges that they would not otherwise incur if they received the care from a VA facility in Upstate new York. Responsibility of payment for services received at non-VA facilities is entirely the responsibility of the veteran. The VA Health Care Upstate New York does not pay for any services received from non-VA facilities unless authorized in advance.

Question 15. How can I appeal decisions made by VA?
Answer Veterans may appeal any denial of a VA benefit. There are both formal and informal methods of appealing.

Informal: Veterans may informally appeal VA healthcare decisions by speaking with Patient Representatives at any VA healthcare facility. The Patient Representative can advocate with VA staff on behalf of veterans to resolve most problems.

Formal: In those instances where the Patient Representative is unable to resolve issues, veterans may file a formal appeal of a VA decision. Typical healthcare related issues appealed include waiver of copayments and waivers of reimbursement for non-VA care. A veteran has one year from the date of notification of a VA decision to file an appeal.

The first step is to file a written notice of disagreement with the VA facility that made the decision. This is simply a written statement that a veteran disagrees with VA's decision. The VA facility will then provide the veteran with a "Statement of the Case" describing the facts and laws and regulations used in deciding the case. To complete the request for appeal, the veteran must file to the Board of Veterans Appeals, a "Substantive Appeal" within 60 days of the mailing of the Statement of the Case, or within one year from the date VA made it's decision, whichever period ends later. Decisions by the Board of Veterans Appeals may be appealed to the United States Court of Veterans Appeals.

Veteran Service Organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, etc. are very skilled at assisting veterans with appeals. Further information may be obtained at the following:
Board of Veterans Appeals (OIB)
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Clerk of Court
United States Court of Veterans Appeals
625 Indiana Avenue, NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20004
Question 16. How do I change my assignment of a primary facility?

Answer Veterans may change their primary facility assignment by contacting their nearest VA facility.

Question 17. How do I change my assignment of a primary care doctor?
Answer Veterans may change to a different primary care doctor by discussing the request with their primary care team leader or with the Patient Representative.

Question 18. How do I know that my doctor is qualified?
Answer Before doctors treat patients in the VA Health Care Upstate New York, they undergo an extensive review to ensure they have the proper education and experience to practice medicine in their specialty area. Their authorization to treat patients is reviewed every two years to ensure they are staying abreast of current medical knowledge.

Question 19. Do people other than doctors treat patients?

Answer Physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical pharmacists and others also treat patients. These healthcare professionals have received additional medical training and are fully licensed. They treat patients independently, with consultation from physicians.

All facilities in the VA Healthcare Network Upstate are affiliated with medical schools. As part of that affiliation, medical students and doctors completing specialty training work in VA facilities. Treatment teams may include these individuals. Other staff physicians closely supervise these doctors in training.

Question 20. What are my rights and responsibilities as a patient?

Answer Patient Rights are assured for each patient, unless medically contraindicated. You have the right to be informed about, to consent to, or to refuse the recommended treatment. You have the right to present grievances if you feel these rights have not been provided. View the Patients Rights and Responsibilties

Question 21. How can I participate more in my health care?
Answer VA Health Care Upstate New York wants to be your partner in maintaining your good health. When you are coming for a healthcare appointment please prepare all your questions for your provider, a list of your medications and any health care concerns you have had since your last visit. Follow all advice to help you to stay well.

Question 22. What VA employment opportunities are available?

Answer The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains an Internet database of job openings within VISN 2 and the rest of the nation at VA Careers – Health Care Jobs.

Other Federal job openings may be found at the Office of Personnel Management USA Jobs ** website.


Question 23. Does VA cover prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids?

Answer VA Health Care Upstate New York's benefit plan complies with the National Uniform Benefits Package relative to the hearing aids and eyeglasses benefit. Eligibility for the hearing and eyeglasses benefit will be restricted to veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 10% or more or 0% service connected for hearing or visual disability. Otherwise, hearing aids and eyeglasses will only be provided in special circumstances and not for generally occurring hearing or vision loss.

Question 24. I want to write to my provider or a VA employee via e-mail. Can you give me their e-mail address?

Answer E-mail between veterans and VA staff is conducted through the VA National Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS). The IRIS policy is to protect confidentiality of personal information for both patients and VA employees. While IRIS does not provide e-mail addresses of individual VA employees, other means of communication are encouraged. See the Contact Us page for more information.

Question 25. How do I obtain information on a family member for a genealogy search?

Answer Medical record information for patients treated at Upstate New York VA Medical Centers can be obtained by written request addressed to the Health Information Management Systems (HIMS) Department for the appropriate facility. Provide as much information as possible in your request. You may need to provide legal documentation stating that you have a right to the record and proof of relationship to individual.

Service record information and military records can be obtained with a signed and dated request to the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) **. The NARA Website is a valuable resource for researching family history of military personnel.

VA's National Cemetery Administration can provide limited burial location assistance to family members and close friends of decedents buried in a VA national cemetery.

Question 26. Is my spouse/family member eligible for VA health care benefits?

Answer In some very specific circumstances a spouse or dependent of a veteran may be entitled to VA health care benefits. Please contact your local Veterans Service Center for further information.

Question 27. My non-VA provider has prescribed medications for me that are listed on your formulary as Class 3 medications. What does this mean? Can I get them at the VA?

Answer "Class 3" refers to medications that are non-formulary (the VA does not carry them). A VA provider would need to follow local Network procedures and complete the non-formulary paperwork. A clinical pharmacist would then review the paperwork. If approved, the medication would be mailed to you. Your VA provider will not necessarily write a prescription for medications prescribed by your private provider. It's always best to discuss your situation with your VA provider.

Question 28. What is TRICARE?

Answer TRICARE is a military healthcare program for Active Duty, Military Retirees (including those Medically Retired because of injuries), and their dependants. The VA has a similar program for Veterans dependants rated at 100% called CHAMPVA which they can apply for.

Question 29. Does the VA Medical Center accept TRICARE?

Answer Yes, most VAMC's accept TRICARE on a space available basis, and some CBOC's also accept TRICARE (if staffed by VA employees) and not contracted out to see only Veterans. Veterans will always have priority for care.

Question 30. Do VA Medical Center's accept TRICARE Prime?

Answer TRICARE Prime is similar to a civilian HMO insurance and there are some of the same restrictions. Active Duty (including spouses) can utilize all VA Medical Center's (and some CBOC's if not civilian contracted). Military Retirees (including spouses) you are restricted by Congress in the use of TRICARE Prime to a 50 mile radius surrounding a military base or a military base closure (BRAC). So with that in mind, the Syracuse and Albany VA’s are the only TRICARE Prime sites in the Upstate NY Area that you may use under this program. You can enroll by going to the medical centers with your current military ID card.

Question 31. Where can patients get more information about these programs?

Answer The best resource is the military web site ** or they can also call the toll free number for this region of 1-877-874-2273.


** Link will take you to another government agency outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site (VA). The link will open in a new window.