A recent Rutgers University study conducted by the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center as a part of the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium shone a bright light on a topic close to the hearts of many injured and ill veterans: the importance of reliable transportation, including services that get them to and from VA health care appointments.

The researchers found that reintegration into civilian society is daunting for all veterans, and without appropriate information and support, it can easily become overwhelming. Veterans coping with one or more injuries — more than 25 percent of U.S. veterans, according to American Community Survey estimates — must address and overcome even more obstacles.

“Transportation may seem to be the least of their worries, but it is the lynchpin that connects disparate parts of daily living,” said study investigator Andrea Lubin. “Access to transportation must therefore be considered in any reintegration efforts.”

DAV launched the nationwide Transportation Network in 1987, after the federal government terminated its program to subsidize transportation for medical appointments. Since then, DAV has donated 2,967 vans worth $62 million to VA health care centers across the country to assist veterans with transportation needs.

This study comes on the heels of the Ford Motor Company Fund’s donation of seven Ford Flex utility vehicles to DAV. This most recent gift from Ford brings the total number of vehicles donated to DAV to 199 since 1996.

“The research confirms what we’ve known for decades—that transportation to and from hospital visits is critical for veterans who might otherwise go without the health care services they’ve earned,” said John Kleindienst, DAV’s National Director of Voluntary Services. “Through the selfless service of our volunteers and donations from Ford and the public, we’re making sure veterans are not left behind.”

Since 1987, nearly 9,000 volunteer drivers have transported veterans to and from VA health care facilities. This would not have been possible without the much-needed assistance from DAV’s Hospital Service Coordinators, who facilitate and make the necessary arrangements for these trips.

“Mobility limitations can adversely affect a veteran’s ability to reach medical services,” said study investigator Stephanie DiPetrillo. “Isolation, both physical and emotional, can make reintegration more difficult. Promoting transportation independence is a way to meet veterans’ needs.”

This is just one way in which DAV touches the lives of veterans each and every day. In the past year, DAV volunteer drivers provided 716,302 free rides for veterans to and from VA health care facilities.

“While the needs are on the rise, veterans service organizations are seeing a nationwide decline in volunteerism,” said Kleindienst. “It’s important that people know they can give back to our veterans and how meaningful this service is in their lives. It’s one thing to put a patriotic magnet on your car, but it says so much more when someone donates their time to recognize the contributions of veterans.”

To volunteer your time in helping to ensure veterans have transportation to and from these critical medical appointments, call Life Towne Center.