Veteran travel goes through changesStarting Jan. 1, veterans are going to get a deal from Douglas County when they head to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis. No one will pay the $15 fee for the service anymore.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Starting Jan. 1, veterans are going to get a deal from Douglas County when they head to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis.
No one will pay the $15 fee for the service anymore.
Instead, those qualified for reimbursement would simply surrender mileage they normally wouldn’t receive to the county.
“It follows the tradition of veterans helping veterans,” said Scott Buchanan, Douglas County’s veteran service officer.
Under the current system, all veterans pay $15 per trip for the service. Those qualified to receive reimbursement get $9 back, minus a $6 processing fee, Buchanan said. The processing fee becomes an out-of-pocket expense for the qualified veteran, he said. Those not eligible for reimbursement pay the full price.
Under travel pay surrender, Buchanan said, qualified veterans would agree to surrender mileage to the county, ensuring travel for all veterans and long-term viability of the transportation service.
Buchanan estimates the new system would net about $131 per qualified veteran per trip and about half the veterans using the service are qualified for the reimbursement.
The additional revenue would cover the county’s costs, something the flat fee falls short of doing today.
Under the current system, two to six veterans use the daily van service, generating from $15 to $90. However, each round trip costs the county $180 to $195.
Taxpayers pick up the tab for the rest.
Travel pay surrender would not only cover those costs, but also provide surplus revenue that would be put back into the program, such as purchasing new vans when replacement is needed, Buchanan said.
The system is in place in Carlton County, Minn., and has allowed the county veterans’ transportation program to be self-sustaining, Buchanan said.
In recent years, the veterans’ transportation service has struggled with how to pay for the van it uses.
The most recent van was made possible by community generosity, Public Involvement Group (PIGs) and Benna Ford in Superior.
Another change that goes into effect Jan. 1 is designed to extend the life of the van and allow for repairs and routine maintenance.
The five-day-a-week service will no longer provide rides — unless desperately needed — on Tuesday.
Buchanan said the four-day-a-week service is likely going to be the most unpopular change in service, but it was not without forethought.
Tuesday is the day fewest veterans travel to the VA hospital in the Twin Cities, and the Twin Ports Outpatient Veterans Clinic offers the service with the Disabled American Veterans from Monday to Thursday each week, Buchanan said.
However, if the service is truly needed on a specific Tuesday, Buchanan said the Douglas County Veterans Service Office would work with veterans to ensure they make their appointments.