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VETS VIEWS: Hubbard County vets transportation program expands

Greg Remus

If you are a Hubbard County veteran and have difficulty getting to medical appointments (to include dental) this may be the solution. We are expanding our transportation program to include travel to non-VA facilities within the region. In addition, we have purchased bus passes to be given to veterans who need travel to and from medical appointments within the city limits of Park Rapids. These passes are available through the Veterans Service Office at no cost to the veteran. Expansion of this program will make a positive economic impact for veteran residents of our rural county.

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 at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities.

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.

n Who is eligible to Ride? Any Hubbard County veteran who has an appointment at any area medical center or clinic including dental offices. This is an expansion since transportation is no longer limited to VA facilities. Also, we recognize some veterans require assistance in traveling, and we will provide transportation for spouses, family members or attendants of veterans, depending on space availability.

n How do I schedule a ride? 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 all of your appointments be made on the same day, between the hours of 10a.m. and 2 p.m. whenever possible.

n How much does it cost? For those veterans who 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, though 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.

n Can we transport veterans who have special needs? Within the Park Rapids City bus system, the buses 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. 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.

n Are there other restrictions? Seatbelts must be worn at all times. No smoking. Acceptable personal hygiene and language must be used. No use or transport of alcohol or illegal drugs.

How is this program funded?

The program is funded by a grant from the State of Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, from receipt of fares from passengers and from donation. This program will continue until the funding is exhausted.