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Vets transportation funds cut

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

A grant to transport veterans to doctors appointments has been wiped out, leaving Hubbard County taxpayers to cover an estimated $17,000 shortfall.

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"The state didn't renew the pot of money at the Commissioner of Veterans Affairs for the state of Minnesota," said Hubbard County Veterans Service Officer Greg Remus.

"When I first got here (April 2010) we were getting about $12,000. I knew about the pot of money and knew the Department of Veterans Affairs had extra money so I asked for $17,000 and I expanded the grant so veterans could get rides, not only to the VA facilities, but also to private medical facilities. So they increased the amount there."

But the grant evaporated for 2013, Remus believes, because counties like Hubbard were utilizing it so extensively.

"There's probably a dozen trips a month," Remus said. "This has funded trips to the VA in Fargo, the Fargo hospitals, St. Cloud, Minneapolis, the community based outpatient clinic in Bemidji...

"The money was funding trips for veterans who are shut-ins who just can't get into town. We've even used it for dialysis trips to Detroit Lakes until it became too costly and we had to stop it. It's for any medical appointment at all."

He's asked the county board for help and reported that a recent $2,800 Operational Improvement Grant may be able to make up some of the shortfall.

But the program may have been a victim of its own success, Remus admitted.

"I think the program here was better than any of the surrounding counties," he said. "They weren't using that pot of money to do this. They do have some transportation but there was always a cost to the veteran for the other counties that I'm aware of."

And he acknowledged the concern of the county board that it was a typical federal/state program eventually pushed into the backs of local taxpayers.

"They let the county use the money to improve outreach to veterans and what they do is let the county use it to get the program established and then they intend the counties to pay for it in the long run," Remus acknowledged.

Now the board must decide whether it will pick up the slack.

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