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VETS VIEWS: Improved transportation resources for veterans

Greg Remus

Great News! Hubbard County will receive a transportation grant from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs for 2011 and 2012. The grant is intended to help Hubbard County veterans who have difficulty traveling to and from medical appointments. The grant funds travel to and from VA and non-VA medical appointments. The appointments can be medical, dental, or optical. At the risk of being a bit repetitive in my articles, I'd like to give you a quick summary of the program again.

Veterans are transported to their medical 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? All Hubbard County veterans are eligible. 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.

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 arrange the ride? You can contact the Heartland Express office at 732-2421 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 10 a.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.

More Good News! I have been traveling monthly to Laporte to conduct outreach to veterans. This has been a great success. The township has provided space at the Lakeport Town Hall from 9 a.m. to noon every third Thursday. I would like to take the next step since the feedback from this outreach has been so positive. I will now stop at Lake George beginning Feb. 17. I will be located at the Lake George Town Hall from 1-3 p.m. also every third Thursday to provide assistance to veterans and their family members. If this receives the same positive response it will become a permanent routine.

You can contact me at the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at 201 Fair Ave, Park Rapids, 732-3561.