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Transportation for vets’ doctor appointments available

Three Ford Flex vehicles have been purchased to transport regional veterans to medical appointments at veterans facilities. Local and state vets groups raised $130,000 for the purchase of the vehicles, which will be stationed in Park Rapids, Bemidji and Wheaton. The funds also go to pay the cost of a dispatcher.

The Northwest Transportation Program has been placed in motion. We have a van in Hubbard County that transports veterans to the Fargo VA Medical Center twice weekly. This is the first van of its kind in Minnesota where the van can make stops in each of the counties along the way. There are also identical vans in Bemidji and Wheaton that have begun to perform the same service.

The van travels on Wednesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays the van will go from Nevis through Park Rapids and follow highway 34 to Detroit Lakes and then follow Highway 10 to Fargo.

There are 11 potential places to pick up veterans. Fridays the van will go from Park Rapids south on Highway 71 to Wadena and then go on Highway 10 through New York Mills and Detroit Lakes to Fargo. There are nine potential places to pick up veterans on this route.

The ride is free to all veterans. Simply call 1-855-277-9787. Dan Wood, the transportation coordinator, will take your information and coordinate the details. If you need assistance a family member can ride with you also free of charge.

I’d encourage you to stop in at the American Legion Post 212 located on Highway 34 on the east side of Park Rapids to take a look at the vehicle. The van is parked at the back of the lot. You will ride in comfort in a brand new 2013 Ford Flex and the vehicle is designed to turn heads. It obviously is for veterans.

This project is fairly simple but has many moving parts and each part has been instrumental in their own way. First, the volunteer drivers, who will be driving the van, have passed a physical and background check and completed training to qualify as VA volunteer drivers.

DAV Chapter 38, Park Rapids, has donated money and volunteered to maintain physical control of the vehicle. The American Legion Post 212, has provided a home for the vehicle. The American Legion Riders have donated money.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, Minnesota DAV and Minnesota Veterans 4 Veterans, each provided a substantial grant to purchase the vehicle.

The VA Medical Center Fargo provided the physicals and training and pay for maintenance and gas for the vehicle. Hubbard County CVSO and Dan Wood (vehicle dispatcher) are coordinating the schedule and overseeing the entire program. Thank you to all and great job!

On another note, veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar. Until this year, that was required by law. Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment. For example a 10 percent service connected veteran received $129 per month now they will receive $130.94.

The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.

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, 732-3561. Have a great day!

I will be in Laporte at the Lakeport Town Hall from 9 a.m. to noon and at the ARCC in Akeley from 1-3 p.m. every 3rd Thursday of each month.