By PHYLLIS HODGES
Every weekday morning around 6:30 a.m., veterans who need a ride to the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa can climb aboard the Disabled American Veterans’ van that makes the trip. Now, thanks to some very generous organizations and individuals in the community, they have a new brand new ride.
It was less than a year ago that the DAV Chapter 110 began to seek funds to replace its van that was showing its wear by repeatedly needing maintenance work.
Not widely known is how this program actually works. The DAV chapter buys the van and it merges into the Veterans Administration transportation program, with the VA paying the insurance, gas, maintenance, etc. Drivers do not have to be veterans. They are certified by the VA after undergoing a background check and a physical exam. A standard driver’s license is all that is required. The DAV Chapter 110 manages the transportation activity for the local area and has been sponsoring the program for 11 years. It is the only community-based transport service in the VA system.
Veterans with medical appointments at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa or one of its satellite clinics can “catch” the van at one of five stops: North Pebble Beach Boulevard (just north of the Sun City Center Library), Sun Towers, Kings Point, the Ruskin post office and Gibsonton Walmart.
The only requirements for ridership are that the veteran is a patient at Haley, is ambulatory (no wheelchairs) and has called 813-642-0302 to reserve a seat. They request at least three-days’ notice, but will do all they can to accommodate last-minute requests. There is no residency requirement, but most riders live in South Hillsborough County.
The local DAV chapter operates from an office at 1002 Cherry Hills Drive in SCC where they help veterans with VA issues such as applying for VA benefits, requesting re-evaluations of current status, applying for surviving spousal benefits, etc. Veterans/spouses do not have to be a DAV chapter member to request help. Nor do they have to be residents of the Greater Sun City Center Area. For information or to schedule appointments with the adjutant, call 813-642-2047.