PALM DESERT – The Riverside County Veteran Transportation & Supports (VeTS) Program, a service to assist veterans with transportation options for their medical needs, including to the Loma Linda VA Hospital, has begun.

The pilot program, developed by Riverside County and the SunLine Transit Agency, is now in effect and runs through June 30th or until all money runs out.

“Thanks to a tremendous partnership among county departments and SunLine, we now have a program that is available to all veterans in Riverside County that will eliminate transportation as a barrier to accessing healthcare,” Supervisor Perez said in a prepared statement. “Transportation is a real challenge for veterans without vehicles who are unable to afford travel costs or perhaps unable to drive themselves. We know there is a great need for a resource like this that veterans can turn to. This pilot is not just about transportation, it is a holistic program that offers safety, security and dignity to our veterans who have given so much.”

The program stems from discussions between Perez and Representative Raul Ruiz, who provided inspiration and vital leadership to getting a program organized to address the transportation needs of veterans and be a model for the nation. Since entering office, Rep. Ruiz has set an overall vision of having Riverside County be the most veteran-friendly county in the country.

“Transportation barriers should never stand in the way of a veteran getting the health care they need,” Dr. Ruiz said in a prepared statement. “That is why I have worked tirelessly to ensure our veterans have easy access to transportation for medical appointments. I am proud of the Veterans Transportation Initiative partnership between the County and SunLine that will improve the lives of veterans in our area.”

State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia is also a champion of the initiative and of improving services for veterans throughout the State of California. He had introduced legislation and successfully secured budget allocations to increase state funding for county veterans service officers that could boost support for essential programs like this.

“I applaud Riverside County Supervisor, Manuel Perez, and SunLine Transit Agency’s dedicated efforts to support our veterans and improve access to healthcare services. This pilot program will make a genuine difference in the lives of local veterans who had no option but to forgo medical care due to lack of transportation. In the California State Legislature, I have been continuously pushing to open up additional funding for our County Veteran Service Offices to improve resources for veterans and enhance our ability to invest in vital programs like this across our entire state,” Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia said in a prepared statement.

As funds are available, the Riverside County VeTS Program will assist with transportation to health care for any local veteran who doesn’t have means of transportation to get to his or her medical appointments.

To request a service, the veteran must call the Riverside County Office on Aging’s HelpLink at 1-800-510-2020. An operator will assist the veteran in making transportation arrangements to get to his or her medical appointments. The veteran will not incur any charge.

Currently, there are numerous ridership options available that include bus tickets, taxi service, Sun-Dial, AMVETS and more. The program can also compensate family members, friends, neighbors, caregivers and vendors using their vehicles to provide trips for veterans. The taxis are able to provide wheelchair service.

All requests must be approved three days in advance in order to be funded.

The program is open to any veteran residing in Riverside County that doesn’t have means of transportation. All destinations must be medical-based and could include: Loma Linda VA Hospital, health care providers, Palm Desert VA Clinic, and federally qualified health centers. Due to the nature of the funding sources, most funding will be allocated to veterans residing in the Coachella Valley and ages 60 and older.

SunLine Transit Agency, the Riverside County Office on Aging and the Riverside County Department of Veterans’ Services all contributed funding for this program.


Image Sources

  • Taxi: Shutterstock