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Crisis in Care: 4-State Veterans Speak Out Part 2 - KOAM TV 7

Crisis in Care: 4-State Veterans Speak Out Part 2

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There are more than 1700 department of veterans affairs healthcare facilities and outpatient clinics in the us. To ease the burden of having to travel to various locations, the the Department of Veterans Affairs offers some special reimbursement claims and transportation. But some veterans say this is not enough.  

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As he flips through the pages of a book, Florence Weddle only looks at the photos. The 75-year-old Army veteran cannot read.

"There's no place here an illiterate person can go and get help."

Weddle relies on the VA for his healthcare. Suffering from several ongoing issues, he needs regular medical attention.  

"Then they said you have to go to the nearest VA clinic and I started going to Kansas City. And then they opened these clinics up, little clinics. And then they said you 'you have to go to Topeka.'" 

Traveling to several VA locations gets expensive, says Weddle. And since driving can be difficult, he relies on others to take him.

"Because we cannot afford to drive. It costs too much. And now I have to pay people to take me.

"I know there are lots of veterans, even younger than I am, who don't even have transportation and can't even get to it."

Weddle wishes the VA would offer him mileage compensation and more help with other services.  

"Any veteran who was in the 50's, 60's and 70's, that's what the government, Uncle Sam, and the military promised us. We could go there and it would be paid for."

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David Schad helps veterans like Weddle get what they were promised.  

"What we do on a daily basis is help veterans and their family members apply for a number of VA benefits and advise them of those."

Schad is service officer with the Missouri Veterans Commission, a state agency similar to other programs in the 4-states, such as the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs.  

Helping veterans get to and from their medical appointments is one of his goals.  

"We are constantly working with people like the Disabled American Veterans for the transportation aspect of it," said Schad.

"As long as it is a VA appointment, we will take you to it," said Dawn Dorris of the Joplin-based Disabled American Veterans. "If we don't go to the hospital, we will go to another DAV van that will take you to that hospital. There is no cost to ride our vans."

Dawn Dorris coordinates rides for veterans at the Joplin, Missouri-based Disabled American Veterans.

A veteran herself, she understands the difficulty of having to go to various VA locations for care. But she says help is out there.  

"The VA has been outsourcing," she said. "They do what's called fee basis, where they will outsource an appointment to a civilian facility."

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The Department of Veterans Affairs says it works to make medical travel as easy as possible.

"We're able to provide transportation for immobilized and remote VA patients to enhance our existing programs implemented by local VA medical centers, said Laurence Lang, Department of Veterans Affairs in Wichita. "Veterans transportation service seeks to provide transportation services to includes vehicle routing and scheduling software for VA medical facilities."

The VA coordinates with transportation services providers, such the DAV. It also request funding to construct or lease additional clinics, and provide interactive tele-health services.

"So that way those veterans can get their care close to home in a timely manner with as little travel as possible if that's what's needed for their care," said Lang.

These choices are working for some veterans.

"And now we can a clinic here in Fort Scott," said veteran Stephen Dean. "It's open four days a week. It's really helpful for the first initial step for getting things done."

For others, the need to visit several VA locations still costs too much money and time.

"Luckily I can get around, luckily I can get back and forth from Topeka," said veteran Tom McNeil . But it's still a five hour drive."

"I just tell them I want Uncle Sam to keep his promise to all the veterans,"said Weddle.

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