Troubleshooter: Veteran transportation

VA Medical Center in Durham, NC

June 13, 2011 1:33:04 PM PDT
Veterans who go to the VA Medical Center in Durham weekly say they are upset over transportation issues.The vets say do not have their own transportation and rely on transportation from the VA to get back and forth to their appointments, until recently.

"How am I going to get to the hospital, it's difficult with no car and no one that can take me," Kassandra Boykin said.

Boykin goes to the medical center three times a week for dialysis.

For years, she says, she got to her appointments using the VA's free transportation van. But recently she notified not from the VA, but from the company that provided that ride.

"They basically called me Wednesday afternoon and told me that there was no longer going to be transportation and that I had to find my own way to the hospital," Boykin said.

However, she says she doesn't know how she is going to get to dialysis.

"There is no option to go or not to go to the hospital," Boykin said. "I have end stage renal failure, I'm on the transplant list so there's no missing dialysis, I have to go."

James Peppers says he is in the same bind. For more than 10 years, he has relied on the VA transportation program and now has to pay someone $20 to take him to each of his dialysis appointments three times a week.

"If I can't afford to pay for the way to get there, I guess I just may as well give up," he said.

Boykin also now has to pay a driver $60 to take her to her three weekly appointments.

"I'm on a fixed income, so I can't afford to keep coming out of pocket with $20 three times a week to pay someone to get me back and forth," she said.

Frustrated, they got in touch with ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, who reached out to representatives at the Durham VA.

Pete Tillman says the transportation contract ended, because it conflicted with VA regulations.

"Unfortunately this information was communicated to our veterans before we had an opportunity to remedy the situation," he said. " So we apologize that we weren't out in front and communicating that info to the veterans specifically about what alternatives and options are available for them."

The options include mileage reimbursement to and from each appointment, plus Tillman says they're working to get volunteer drivers matched up with veterans. Tillman says the key is they want to hear from the vets who need help.

"So if a veteran is in that situation we really do want to know so we can help resolve their transportation concerns," he said.

And Boykin says she is anxious to get that relief.

"If the transportation comes back it would be immensely helpful that I wouldn't have to worry as far as financially and I would be able to get to my appointments and do what I need to do to get myself healthy," she said.

Tillman says the VA is reimbursing these Veterans for all past visits in which they qualify, and the VA continues to look for ways to meet veterans' transportation needs. He encourages veterans to communicate any challenges to their social worker, who can help resolve those challenges.

Veterans can get more information on their options at or call 919-286-0411, extension 6957.

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