Hampton VA Medical Center
Eastern Shore Shuttle Drivers Needed
ONLEY ~ Eastern Shore of Virginia Veterans soon will have better access to medical services thanks to an initiative that will link volunteer drivers with Veterans who need a ride to the Hampton VA Medical Center (VAMC).
Volunteers with a valid Virginia driver's license are needed to drive a passenger van to Hampton whenever they can, with the goal being to have a pool of qualified volunteer drivers and to offer trips to the medical center three times a week starting in October.
Each trip should take five or six hours.
Monica Hall, the local Veterans employment representative at the Virginia Employment Commission in Onley, is coordinating the program, which involves several agencies. She encouraged drivers to sign up for any amount of time they can give.
"There is no little amount," she said.
Anyone interested in volunteering should call Hall at 757-302-2014 or Star McGruder at the Hampton VAMC at 757-728-3148 for more information. Two driver orientation programs are planned for October.
Hall began looking for a solution after local Veterans' need for transportation to their medical appointments across the bay became apparent during the course of her work, where she sees many clients who have been recently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"My job is to help Veterans become employed, but there's so much more about a Vet ~ mental health, their actual medical health, everything ~ as well as filing claims ... and helping them find jobs," Hall said. "The largest population I'm seeing is from the Vietnam era; they're just now starting to trust again and they're willing to come through the door."
When she started the job two years ago, she contacted Veterans' service organizations in the Hampton Roads region about holding monthly workshops here and otherwise helping Eastern Shore of Virginia Veterans know about and gain access to benefits to which they are entitled.
Representatives from the Vet Center, Virginia Department of Veteran Services, the Hampton VAMC Rural Health Initiative team, the VEC, Virginia Wounded Warrior, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 4 of Norfolk, the Virginia Small Business Development Center and Eastern Shore Community College now take part in the workshops, which are held the third Tuesday of each month in both Eastern Shore counties at 10 a.m. at the VEC, 26036 Lankford Highway, Onley and at 1:30 p.m. at Northampton County Department of Social Services, 5265 The Hornes, Eastville.
"I don't care what it takes; if I can get to a Vet, I'm going to get to them and at least make them aware of the services that are available to them," Hall said.
The license tag on her vehicle even spells out her mission, it reads "VET REP."
In those workshops, transportation to the Hampton VAMC arose as one major need local Veterans have. So over a year ago Hall and others began working on ways to meet that need.
The result is a cooperative effort between several organizations.
The DAV Transportation Network will coordinate riders and drivers and is providing the passenger van, which the Eastern Shore Community Services Board has agreed to house and maintain, Hall said.
The DAV also will pay for gas, tolls and insurance and the Accomack County Health Department will assist with required physicals for drivers.
The only thing drivers are asked to contribute is their time.
Hall, who herself is a Navy Veteran, hopes at least some volunteers will come from the ranks of Veterans. "I like to refer to this as Vets helping Vets. You don't have to be a Vet to drive the van, but what better way to help fellow Vets."
Hall also has heard from several sheriff's deputies who want to volunteer as drivers during their time off. "The Sheriff's Office is behind it 110 percent ... It's a good program," said Accomack County Sheriff Todd Godwin.
Hall also plans to volunteer as a driver herself.
She hopes the rides initiative along with other programs now offered on the Eastern Shore will encourage more local veterans to take advantage of services for which they are eligible.
"By doing the workshops, by getting the van, people are now coming out and saying, 'I am a Vet.' And they should be proud of the fact that they are a Veteran. You know, they served this wonderful country and I think we ought to see what we can do for them."