Needed: Drivers for VA Medical Care

December 04, 2017 04:52 PM

A service that provides free rides for veterans to get medical care at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis is short on volunteer drivers.  

That means some veterans are being turned down for rides, leaving them to delay or even miss appointments. 

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Drivers that do volunteer with Disabled American Veterans include people like Navy veteran Duff Miller.  

RELATED: State Veterans Day Program Honors Vietnam Vets

"I've met some really great people, all the way from cooks to aviators to people who've worked in the intelligence camps," Miller said, adding that he volunteers to drive because he himself has had three surgeries at the VA.

"(Being a driver is) very humbling, for one. And you meet a lot of people who've given service to our nation," he said. "And it's a chance to give back to the system."

Miller will make three to six runs a day to pick up veterans, and he does it a couple of times a week.  

On a recent day he picked up Navy veteran Marie Dalton in Eagan, who is legally blind. She can't drive, and she's been to the VA 12 times in the past six weeks.

"Well, without it I couldn't get there," Dalton said. "My kids have jobs and they can't take me back and forth, so this is basically my lifeline – how to get there. It's a wonderful service."

RELATED: Veterans Surprised with Trip to Vikings Game in Washington, DC

The shortage of drivers has reached a point where dispatchers sometimes have to tell veterans they cannot pick them up. And that's something they don't want to have to do. 

"Usually the veterans we transport – we're their only option, or we're their last option," said Trent Dirks, who runs the DAV transportation program. "And that might mean they have to reschedule their appointment, delay their care. We find the number one challenged for veterans as far as the VA is is transportation."

RELATED: Trump Signs Bill to Fund Veterans Medical Care Program

Disabled American Veterans provides 18,000 rides per year statewide to veterans. Those rides total more than a million miles. Dirks says they'd like 10 to 15 more drivers in the Twin Cities so veterans like Dalton can get to their appointments on time. 

If you are interested in volunteering as a driver for Disabled American Veterans, call 651-291-1212.

Credits

Bill Lunn

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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