Las Vegas

Transit services for Las Vegas veterans struggle to keep pace with demand – Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada 2021-11-28 05:00:00 –

Jessica Hill

John Penley, a 69-year-old Navy Veteran, is shown before a laundromat often waiting to be greeted by a Veterans Transport Service to be taken to VA Hospital in North Las Vegas on Thursday, November 18, 2021. .. ..

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The North Las Vegas VA Medical Center bus stop sign will be visible outside the hospital on Thursday, November 11, 2021. The Veterans Transport Service offers a free shuttle to VA Hospital in North Las Vegas for veterans.

Navy veteran John Pennley walked across the street from an apartment near East Twain Avenue in central Las Vegas to a nearby laundromat, catching a van that took him and other veterans to a doctor’s appointment. ..

But recently, 69-year-old Penry noticed that these transportation services seem to be growing thinly.

Transportation services for the Las Vegas veterans population are working to meet the growing demand for services as more veterans move to Las Vegas.

Many veterans are like Penry, who had a stroke and heart attack about a year ago and, coupled with spinal problems, have limited ability to avoid them. He doesn’t have a car and can’t afford a taxi or a ride-hailing service.

“Unfortunately, I got a lot worse here,” Penry said. “I mainly order from Amazon or walk to 7-Eleven. I don’t think I can go to the grocery store anymore.”

Penry uses the Las Vegas Veterans Transportation Service operated by the Veterans Affairs Southern Nevada Healthcare System. John Archiket, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Healthcare System in the Southern Department of Veterans Affairs, said he transports about 750 veterans free of charge each month to outpatients at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“They are really great people,” Penry said. “All drivers are as great as possible.”

The service tells veterans to schedule shipments two weeks in advance on the reserved date and time, but Penry said he now needs to schedule shipments about a month in advance.

When the new clinic made his appointment two weeks ago a few months ago, the Veterans Affairs Department was scared that he couldn’t pick him up and couldn’t afford a taxi, so he changed his appointment. I had to. Take the bus for COVID-19.

And one day, while using another service, he was left in the clinic for nearly three hours.

“It could be life-threatening for someone to have to wait another month,” he said. “It’s important.”

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, about 211,000 veterans live in Nevada, accounting for about 9% of the state’s adults.

According to Archiquette, the Las Vegas veteran population has grown over the past few years, and so has the demand for transportation services. According to Archiquette, the Veterans Transport Service, which currently has 6 full-time drivers and 13 volunteers, is working to create more full-time driver positions to meet demand.

During the pandemic, Archiquette said it would not suspend transportation services and demand has been stable since March 2020.

“Even when we first started it, we had quite a few drivers, but the reaction was pretty overwhelming,” he launched the Veterans Transport Service Program in 2017. VA Project Manager Dan Davis said. … I think it was booked immediately 3 months ago. “

The Disabled Veterans Transport Network System in Southern Nevada is an organization of volunteer drivers who provide veterans with no means of transportation to medical appointments for veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs Southern Nevada Healthcare System also has a shuttle service that runs between the North Las Vegas Medical Center and several VA Primary Care Clinics.

According to Archiquette, several other community and nonprofits, such as Helping Hands and Medic Coach, also provide transportation for veterans. The Regional Transport Commission also offers programs for seniors and disabled veterans, with discounted rates for qualified veterans.

Denise Davis, executive director of the Veterans Transition Resource Center, said her nonprofit is providing financial support to veterans in need of transportation. She said they were handing out prepaid Uber cards and bus passes. Reservation acquisition can take 45 minutes to an hour and a half, especially in less populated areas of the state, such as northern Nevada, and many veterans cannot afford it.

Davis, who is currently working at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Reno, said the US Disabled Veterans Transport Network system struggles to maintain volunteer drivers, but the Veterans Transport service is full-time with government salaries. He said he had a driver. Funding for transportation centers is not separate from medical administration services, according to Davis, so it may be difficult for organizations to choose funding for new drivers over nurses.

“Personally, I think it’s a good program,” Davis said. “But at this point you are talking about politics to fund such things.”

Penry hopes to bring more resources to the veterans’ transport services and drivers he described as “unknown heroes” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They endanger their personal safety to take us home,” he said. “I commend them for doing it during the pandemic.”

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