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Vets have transportation choices

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By Greg Remus / For the Enterprise

The Hubbard County Veterans Service Office, in partnership with the Heartland Express, Hubbard County’s transit program, operates a Veterans Transportation Program that is used to transport local veterans to their medical appointments. The Heartland Express is a great option, especially if you can’t drive yourself to the appointment or if you don’t have the resources to travel to your appointment.

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Veterans are transported to their appointments by either the Heartland Express bus or by certified volunteer drivers who use their own vehicles and then are reimbursed for mileage and meals (but not their time) by the county. The driver typically comes to your home to pick you up, takes you to your appointment, and then returns you back to your home when your appointment is completed.

All Hubbard County veterans are eligible for this service, having an appointment at any area medical center or clinic including dental offices. We recognize some veterans require assistance in traveling, and will provide transportation for attendants of veterans, depending on space availability.

You can contact the Heartland Express office at 732-9328 or 1-800-660-1666 between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon, Monday thru Friday. Please provide your full name, address, telephone number, and the date, time, and location of your scheduled appointment. For the convenience of our drivers and other passengers, we ask that you request your appointments be made on the same day, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. whenever possible.

If you are eligible for travel reimbursement from the VA, we require you to file for and collect your full reimbursement and turn it over to the driver or to the Hubbard County Heartland Express office. For all other veterans, the transportation is free. Donations are encouraged and accepted. All monies collected are part of the county Veterans Transportation Program fund and used to keep the program running. We do not charge for accompanying spouse or attendant, but their seat is strictly dependent on space available.

The Heartland Express does have some limitations. The buses within the Park Rapids city bus system are wheelchair accessible. Any trips outside the city limits requiring a volunteer driver are not wheelchair accessible. Those vehicles are not equipped and our drivers are not trained or qualified to handle medical emergencies or special medical conditions.

Additionally, we cannot transport anyone with life- threatening emergencies nor who are not able to ambulate between your home and our vehicle on your own accord. And of course, seatbelts must be worn at all times, smoking is prohibited and acceptable personal hygiene and language must be used.

Of special note, any veteran who wants/needs to ride the Park Rapids bus system to get to a medical appointment within the city limits can obtain a bus pass from the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at no charge.

The program funding comes from several sources. Funding includes a small grant from the State of Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, receipt of travel reimbursement from the VA Medical Centers, Hubbard County, and donations. This program will continue until the funding is exhausted.

If you have any questions regarding scheduling please contact Heartland Express as listed above or any other questions please contact the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office.

As always the purpose of the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office is to provide assistance and support to eligible veterans, their dependents and survivors in obtaining benefits through the State and Federal Departments of Veterans Affairs, and to provide benefit counseling, claims service, referral and assistance in a variety of other programs.

You can contact me at the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at 201 Fair Ave, Park Rapids or by calling 732-3561. Have a great day! I will be in Laporte at the Lakeport Town Hall from 9 a.m. -noon and at the ARCC in Akeley from 1-3 p.m. every 3rd Thursday of the month.

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