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Program helps local vets get rides to VA hospitals
About 300 veterans used service in first year
Georgia Department of Veterans Service driver Randall Taylor, front, gives U.S. Army veteran Gary Grant a ride home in Statesboro after a visit to the Veterans Administration hospital in Augusta Thursday.
    A service that provides rides to medical centers in Dublin and Augusta for local veterans who have trouble finding transportation has been going strong since it started a year ago.
    Nearly 300 veterans were transported to and from appointments at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin or the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta thanks to the Disabled American Veterans organization, the local Veterans Services Office and Statesboro’s American Legion Post 90.
    The disabled vets group supplies the 15-passenger van as well as pays for gas and maintenance on the vehicle, while the American Legion raises funds to pay the van drivers. The Statesboro VSO schedules the rides.
    Dan Foglio, post commander of American Legion Post 90, said the van is essential for some Bulloch County area veterans.
    “The van is an absolute godsend,” Foglio said. “It is very important because some veterans have no other way of getting to Dublin or Augusta to receive medical attention.”
    The van transports veterans to appointments in Dublin on Tuesdays and to Augusta on Thursdays.
    Local veteran Ray Hendrix, who has spearheaded efforts to bring a veterans’ outpatient clinic to Statesboro, has coordinated and raised funds for the project since its inception. American Legion Post 90 Adjutant Terry Presler handles the finances and issues checks to the drivers. Pay for the drivers is completely funded by donations.
     “We depend on the generosity of the folks in Bulloch County to support the van for veterans,” Foglio said.
    Kasey Coleman, manager of the Statesboro VSO, said the first step toward securing a ride on the van is to call the medical center in Dublin or Augusta and schedule an appointment. The hospitals will work with the veteran to make sure their appointment is scheduled when the van can deliver them to either location. However, Coleman said it is very important for the patient to let the hospital know they will arrive on the van from Statesboro so that the appointment is scheduled for an appropriate time.
    In order to make sure the van arrives back in Statesboro before dark, the Tuesday or Thursday appointments should be made in the morning, if possible, between 9 a.m. and noon, so that the van can depart either location by 3 p.m.
    Once a veteran has an appointment secured, he or she should then contact Coleman at her office to reserve a seat on the van. According to Hendrix, patients will be responsible for their own transportation to the medical centers should they schedule their appointment any other time besides Tuesday morning for Dublin or Thursday morning for Augusta.
    The van leaves from the Shoney’s parking lot on South Main at 7:30 a.m. In addition, on Thursdays when the van heads to Augusta, the van can pick up individuals at Ruby Parrish – located on the corner of Rocky Ford Road and Highway 25. Unfortunately, because of the limitations of the insurance coverage provided by the VA, the van cannot deviate from the pre-designated route. So if a veteran has an unusual circumstance that prevents them from being able to get to the Shoney’s parking lot, they should contact Coleman to see if other arrangements can be made.
    Another caveat a veteran needs to consider is that they cannot bring along additional passengers, such as a spouse or friend - because the van is paid for by the DAV - and should make arrangements accordingly.
    To make an appointment at the Dublin medical center, call (800) 595-5229 and for the Augusta medical center, call (800) 836-5561. Once an appointment is made, contact Coleman at (912) 871-1104 to schedule a ride.
    Donations from the Statesboro Kiwanis Club, American Legion Post 90, Bulloch County Hospital Authority, the Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Post 90 and a few private individuals are funding the driver’s now, but additional funds are always needed. Individuals or organizations wishing to make donations and support funding the van drivers should contact either Ray Hendix at (912) 481-1455 or Terry Presler at (912) 852-9142. The annual cost of the program is currently around $7,800 for two trips a week, but Hendrix said the program could be expanded with additional funds.
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