Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Drivers Wanted
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Drivers Wanted

Disabled Vets could use some helping hands behind the wheel

Patrick Sullivan - May 20th, 2013  

A couple of volunteers are looking for more volunteers to help get veterans in need of medical treatment to their destinations.

In January, the Grand Traverse Area Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 38 took over a program that provides vets free transportation to Veterans Administration hospitals in Saginaw, Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Volunteer and DAV officer Pete Hunt said there is a growing number of veterans in the area who need transportation for medical appointments.

TOOK OVER FROM THE COUNTY

The Grand Traverse County veteran’s affairs office used to schedule the rides, but it was decided that the DAV chapter was better suited to handle the job, Hunt said.

“What it comes down to is they were very busy up there so we took over,” said John Lefler, a volunteer who coordinates the transportation schedule. “There’s nothing negative we want to say about the county. It works out better if we have it, that’s all.”

And it does work out better now, Hunt said. In recent years, the county’s Veteran’s Affairs office was having trouble recruiting volunteer drivers.

Hunt and Lefler said since the DAV chapter took over in January, they’ve focused on recruiting drivers and they’ve found them.

They’ve got eight drivers signed up and certified and six more are in the process of getting approved.

To become a driver, volunteers need to undergo a physical at the Saginaw VA hospital, they need to undergo a background check, and they need to be fingerprinted.

Lefler said he hopes to recruit 30 volunteer drivers to make sure the DAV can cover everybody’s needs.

“People go away on vacation, they are snowbirds in the winter time, some of them drive just once a month,” Lefler said.

TRANSPORTS VETS, DISABLED OR NOT

Typically a little over half of the volunteer drivers are vets. “Most of the volunteers are veterans, but they don’t have to be,” Hunt said.

The transportation service is exclusively for vets, however.

The local DAV members represent a subset of veterans who were injured in the line of duty. There are around 330 DAV members in Grand Traverse County, Hunt said.

The group has experienced a wide variety of disabilities. A lot of DAV members suffer from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, Hunt said. Some of them were disabled in combat; others in training.

“You could have fallen down an elevator shaft in the Pentagon, if you’re on duty, that’s service connected,” Hunt said.

Hunt and Lefler are both “boots on the ground” veterans of Vietnam. They both served in the Army.

VA BETTER THAN IT USED TO BE

Hunt said his view of the VA hospital system has turned around completely since he got back from Vietnam. In those days, he wanted nothing to do with the Veteran’s Administration.

Back then, Hunt said, the VA’s reputation for providing shoddy care was well deserved.

Now, he believes the system is well run and offers good care for vets. It’s better, he thinks, than an ordinary hospital, because VA doctors only see veterans and they understand their needs and problems.

It is also a lot more affordable for veterans to get care through the VA rather than other hospitals, which can charge enough to bankrupt a vet living on disability.

Hunt believes the VA system has really gotten good in the last 10 years, after revelations about the poor quality of care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. became front page news and made the name of that hospital synonymous with the notion that the country was failing to take care of its returning veterans.

Hunt credits politicians and military leaders who came up through the ranks frustrated about the quality of the VA with making changes.

“They’re now in positions of authority to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again, or that it doesn’t happen on their watch,” Hunt said.

LOTS OF NEED FOR TRANSPORT

The need for free transportation from Traverse City to VA hospitals or clinics throughout the state has grown in recent years, Hunt said.

Some of the demand is from veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan who need specialized care.

Some of it comes from an older generation of vets who now need more frequent and more intensive care.

And the need for rides has increased in general due to the economy. Tough times in the past few years have made it hard for many vets or their families to afford car trips downstate.

“If you can drive, please let us know,” Hunt said.

The local DAV chapter was established in 1938 for Grand Traverse County, Hunt said. Now that the chapter has taken over responsibility for coordinating transport for all area vets who need it, the group is in the process of changing its name and the area that it serves.

The new DAV will serve Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Kalkaska and Antrim counties.

For vets who need rides or anyone who wants to volunteer, go to www.gtadav.us or call (231) 313-9357.

 
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