The DAV Drivers and County drivers have become a network that provides transportation for veterans to VA Medical Centers and Clinics for medical care. Most counties have vans that provide this service, and all VA Medical Centers have DAV Hospital Service Coordinators (HSCs). HSCs supervise volunteer drivers go into the communities to get veterans for their medical appointments. It amounts to being an amazing program that demonstrates what can be done to serve and benefit veterans and even society when different organizations and people pull together.
The Transportation Networks in Minnesota provided rides for over 29,254 veterans in 2015. It is something that DAV members support through their membership and should be extremely proud of. It is a program that is unique to the DAV. This number of veterans transported is obtained by drivers signing in at the Minneapolis and St Cloud Medical Centers
On a day to day basis the volunteer and county drivers are already going above and beyond what most people do. But sometimes an unusual circumstance arises and they step up to really save the day. A situation like this happened in late February. Even though all the vehicles are well maintained, on rare occasions, a vehicle can break down. And it did happen on a cold day in late February. At 7:30 am a county van was coming up Interstate 35, on board were 5 veterans. There were two Iraqi vets, two Vietnam vets and a WWII vet on board. It was cold outside, it was in the forties. Not cold enough to be immediately life threatening but cold enough to warrant concern. Suddenly the van’s engine stalled and stopped functioning. As the vehicle slowed the driver steered it safely to the shoulder of the road. The driver tried to start it but the engine wouldn’t crank. And then there was no heat in the van. Slowly the cold seeped in and the passengers began to feel the cold. But more than that, they became concerned about getting to their medical appointments. Not knowing what else to do the county driver called the DAV office at the Minneapolis VAMC and reached a dispatcher. All the local DAV drivers were out making their pick-ups. But thinking quickly the DAV dispatcher called another county driver that had already arrived with his veterans to the Medical Center. This driver had already signed in at the desk so the dispatcher knew he was there at the medical center. The second county driver learned of the situation and quickly went to pick up the veterans at the stalled vehicle, and then brought them back safely to the Med Center. The first driver then waited for a wrecker and rode it back to his county seat and picked up a second vehicle. He returned to Minneapolis and waited for his passengers to finish their appointments.
The county drivers bring in their veterans from their counties located all over Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some are paid small stipends, some are strictly volunteers. They get up early, sometimes early enough to be on the road by 4:00 am. But all do a self-less job in taking care of and getting the veterans to their appointments on time. The driver that had the vehicle that broke down was very appreciative of the support he got from the DAV dispatcher. “ I’m glad you guys are here to help, we can be kind of helpless out there.”
Babette Blumenauer, DAV Minneapolis VA Medical Center HSC