U.S. Rep. Will Hurd with veterans round table

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, Val Verde Regional Medical Center CEO Xochy Hurtado, and Michaelanna Hunter of Hunter Real Estate at the veterans round table held at the Texas Community Bank community center.

Transportation to medical appointments is atop of the list for ex service members

Val Verde County veterans are facing a number of issues pertaining their health-related and other benefits, but their most urgent priority, according to a round table held Tuesday afternoon, is to have comprehensive and affordable transportation for their out-of-town medical appointments.

A group of veterans, veterans representatives and service providers met Tuesday afternoon with Congressman Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) at the Texas Community Bank community center, 401 Pecan St., Del Rio, Texas, where they voiced their concerns and asked for legislative support to alleviate these issues.

The round table focused in services provided to veterans, including rural transportation, jobs, and medical services.

“Services to veterans is one of the biggest issues we deal with,” Hurd said. “We deal with 300 individual VA cases.”

Representatives from local clinics, Val Verde Regional Medical Center, veteran-serving nonprofits, and state and county veterans service officials expressed their needs, which included some delays and red tape pertaining the Veterans Choice Program.

The Veterans Choice Program allows a community provider to serve veterans, paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Eligibility requirements include, but are not limited to, service availability, timeliness of the service required, physical distance from the nearest VA medical facility, etc.

Transportation services became more of an issue for Val Verde County veterans starting in June, when a grant funding the Red White and Blue Veterans Ride Program was not renewed. The grant funded the program from June 2017 through June 2018.

Guidelines of the Texas Veterans Commission funded program called for a number of new users that was not met.

Through the Red White and Blue program, transportation services were provided free or charge to Val Verde County and surrounding area veterans, their surviving spouses and family members three days a week to San Antonio, and twice a week to Kerrville.

The program, operating under Southwest Area Regional Transit, covered the nine counties in the Middle Rio Grande region: Dimmit, Edwards, Kinney, La Salle, Maverick, Real, Uvalde, Val Verde and Zavala.

Starting in June the transportation services became available through the Val Verde County Veterans Service Office only once a week to San Antonio and once a week to Kerrville. This program does not cover family members.

Other options, including Southwest Area Regional Transit, Aguila Express, and the City of Del Rio transportation services are still available, but their fees range between $35 to $100 per round trip.

According to the Val Verde County Veterans Service Office, there are approximately 4,000 veterans in the county, 12,500 including family members, and nearly 300 more who make Val Verde their place of residence for the winter season.

Val Verde County Veterans Service Officer George Sosa said the office is in need of volunteers to drive local veterans to their medical appointments in San Antonio and Kerrville. Sosa said no commercial driver’s license is needed. For more information on volunteering contact the Val Verde County Veterans Service Office at (830) 774 7548.

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