In honor of Veterans Day, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced today that the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) has been awarded $500,000 as part of the federal Veteran Affairs’ Highly Rural Transportation Grant to support veterans’ medical transportation needs in rural Oregon counties. Ten Oregon counties are considered “highly rural” by the U.S. Census Bureau: Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Lake, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Wallowa, and Wheeler. Each county will each receive approximately $50,000 as part of this grant. Veterans in these counties struggle even more than most to access health care, as they must travel long distances to get to their medical appointments. This crucial funding would help ensure that our veterans are able to access the medical services they need, as many of the organizations that provide these veterans transportation would not be able to operate without it.
“Our veterans face tremendous hurdles when returning to civilian life, including access to medical care,” said Senator Merkley. “I thank the VA for not only recognizing the widespread need for better access to medical care among veterans, but also acting on it with this grant. I’ll keep working in Congress for funding to support this key program to give back to vets in need. It is our obligation to fight for the brave servicemen and women that have sacrificed to fight for us.”
This is the third year the ODVA has received one of the VA’s Highly Rural Transportation Grants. In order to get the maximum value from each grant, ODVA works with each county or transportation district to either work in conjunction with existing programs or find innovative new approaches to medical transportation.
These grants have made a significant and immediate impact already. Last year, the program resulted in 5,453 trips for veterans to medical appointments in the ten participating counties, driving 274,600 miles and spending 9,871 hours on the road. The trips that these ten Oregon counties made accounted for nearly half of the total trips provided under the VA national program.
For veterans living in one of the participating highly rural counties, transportation to and from all medical appointments is provided free of charge. These services include door-to-door pick-up and drop-off in ADA-compliant vehicles, with assistance in loading or unloading at no cost to the veteran.
For veterans interested in more information about the Highly Rural Transportation program, please contact your local ODVA office. Find your county’s contact information here.