Volunteers needed to drive W.Va. veterans to VA medical centers
There is a big need for volunteers, and it's all to help disabled veterans in West Virginia.
Volunteer drivers are needed to take disabled veterans to and from appointments at VA medical centers across the state.
The state is getting back to working with the national nonprofit Disabled American Veterans to provide transportation to veterans. The change means that instead of paying drivers to take veterans to the medical centers, it will just be on a volunteer basis.
"We were spending almost three-quarters of a million dollars, and a majority of that was going for salaries," said Dennis Davis, the cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance. "A very small amount was going to replace these vehicles. We need to put our resources into what counts for these veterans."
The money that is saved from the changes will go toward purchasing new vans to transport veterans.
The partnership will help to provide transportation to veterans to all four of the VA medical centers in West Virginia including Huntington, Beckley, Clarksburg and Martinsburg.
Davis says there are about 400 to 500 veterans that need a ride to one of the VA hospitals each day.
"In some cases it could be life or death," Davis said. "These veterans depend on getting to their doctor and we want to take care of them. They're veterans. They have served this country and so we put forth this service as an opportunity to help these veterans get the medical care that they need and deserve."
"It helps a whole lot of veterans out," said Jerry Spence, a veteran who goes to the VA medical center. "A lot of them can't drive anymore and a lot of them are handicapped."
So, they are needing anywhere from 400 to 500 volunteers to cover that.
"This does two things," Spence said. "It helps the person who volunteers and then it helps the veterans, too."
Davis says the money saved from cutting the pay for drivers will allow them to purchase new vehicles to transport veterans.
"We have already ordered 13 vehicles that will be here by July 1. After the new fiscal year, we are going to order another large quantity of them," Davis said.
Davis says they will still pay drivers until July 1, when the new fiscal year starts. Then, volunteer drivers will drive the new vans being purchased.
However, the change in the program is sparking concerns among others, worried that the state won't get many volunteers since drivers won't be paid anymore.
But, Davis says he is certain they will get enough volunteers to keep the program up and running.
"We are only asking for one day per month to volunteer," said Davis. "If you want to volunteer more or volunteer less, that's fine. That's all we are recommending."
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, you must meet the following requirements:
- Must have a valid driver's license
- Must be 21 or older
- Must pass a physical exam
- Must be able to be insured as a driver (personal insurance not required)
You can call the Hershel Woody Williams VA Medical Center to start the process of volunteering at 304-429-6741, ext. 2952.