Military veterans who need rides to medical appointments in St. Louis can now take advantage of a free taxi service.
The Volunteer Transportation Network is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Disabled American Veterans.
Under the program, veterans who have medical appointments scheduled through the VA can call (314) 478-3144 to schedule a ride.
Volunteer driver Dan Lay said this is a good service to offer the people who served the country.
“It’s just something we need to do for our veterans,” Lay said.
Lay, who is a veteran, said he may need a ride one day, and he hopes someone will be there for him.
The minivan that the veterans ride in is emblazoned with a mural of the U.S. flag and Statue of Liberty.
Officials heading up the program held a kickoff event at the VA Medical Center Clinic in Washington Wednesday to get the word out about the service.
Rides are available Monday through Friday, and Roger Johnston with the DAV anticipates that there will be many local veterans who use the service.
Those who need rides are asked to meet at the VA clinic in Washington, 1627 A. Roy Drive.
The program’s sole vehicle has 170,000 miles. Eventually, a new vehicle will be needed as the current one gets older and demand for the program grows, said John Farrell, voluntary service specialist with the VA in St. Louis.
If an organization raises money for a new vehicle, the DAV will provide the other half of the funding needed, Johnston said. A good van for the program would probably cost about $28,000, so the DAV would split the cost with a donor at $14,000 each, Johnston said.
More volunteer drivers are needed, Farrell said, adding that there are five now. Requirements to be a driver include having a good driving record, taking a physical, going through VA training and undergoing a background check.
Those interested in being a volunteer driver should call (314) 289-6393.
The veterans ride program is offered throughout the country, and Farrell said the drivers have a great time interacting with the riders.
Johnston noted that veterans with more serious health problems will get scheduled for rides first. And he said the ride service is not intended for emergencies, so veterans should call 911 in such situations.
Veterans who take the rides should be able to get around on their own, Farrell said, adding that the rides are only available to veterans with appointments scheduled through the VA.
And veterans can have spouses ride with them for support.