Providing a Lift for Area VA Patients

Area servicemen and women who need medical care not available in the immediate southeast Colorado area can contact Carol Grauberger, the Prowers County Veteran’s Administration representative and arrange a ride to Denver, Colorado Springs or Pueblo for their treatment.  The transportation is administered by the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs as well as the local VFW post. 

Funded through a tobacco grant Grauberger applied for in 2005, the free service operates 52 weeks a year, using one of three vans purchased with the funding and another through financing from the VA Medical Center.  Volunteer drivers make the trip to Denver through Limon, or along I-25 for Pueblo and Colorado Springs, remaining at the medical facility until it’s time for the return trip.  In some instances, a patient may require overnight treatment, in which case, a separate trip is made for a pick-up.  Grauberger said patients should try to schedule their appointments in Denver between 9am and 1pm if possible because of the travel time involved, and make a transportation appointment as soon as possible so a driver can be contacted to be ready.  Drivers and patients meet at the rear of the county annex off East Cedar Street in Lamar.  Grauberger said she has three fulltime and one standby driver who are tested in Denver and must pass a physical for VA insurance coverage. 

Last year, 534 veterans were transported to their appointments over 321 trips.  For the first two weeks in June, there were seven trips to Denver alone.  Grauberger said the VA will reimburse a veteran for a portion of the cost of a trip if they drive themselves, but she added, because of the nature of some illnesses, a person can’t make the drive themselves, and often, relatives or friends can’t spare the time.  Some veterans in Eads are picked up en route, and Las Animas residents are met at the Truck Stop for their rides.  Springfield residents drive to Lamar to use the transportation service.  She said that depending on schedules and number of patients, all three vans could be in use on one day. 

Grauberger offered high praise for her drivers who receive only a voucher for their meals, and an annual appreciation dinner in Denver with other drivers across the state.  Other than that, there is no compensation for their time spent behind the wheel.  Grauberger is the county’s VA and vital records representative who has also volunteered her time administering the transportation program with the county’s approval.  She said the county has allowed her the time in her current duties to work on behalf of the area veterans, and the county has also contributed a computer and some office supplies to the project.  Those area vets who need transportation for their medical appointments should contact her at the county annex Monday through Thursday at 336-2606.

By Russ Baldwin

 

Filed Under: CountyHealthLamar

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