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Veterans transportation from Big Bear to VAMC Loma Linda

Edition of JANUARY 31, 2017

I have been enrolled in the Loma Linda VAMC since 2009 after moving back to California from Missouri where I was under VA outpatient care from 1991. I am in Priority Group 7, "Veterans with gross household income below the geographically-adjusted income threshold (GMT) for their resident location and who agree to pay copays."

Still nothing, no help by American Legion, just nothing, go find someone to take you down there.

VVNG Staff January 5, 2017 ( Beginning on January 9, 2017, Veterans residing in the Victorville area that have medical appointments at the main VA Loma Linda Healthcare System (VALLHCS) will now have access to free bus service to the facility.
This transportation service is provided by VALLHCS’s Veterans Express System (V.E.T.S.) free Veteran transportation bus program. The V.E.T.S. program provides Veterans with a safe, expedited round-trip to and from the VA to help Veterans access health care services.

The V.E.T.S Victorville pickup and drop off location will be on Lorene Drive between Valley Center drive which is adjacent to Interstate 15 behind Costco at the Victor Valley Transit Authority transfer point. The bus will depart Victorville at 7:50 a.m. and arrive at the VA Loma Linda main facility at 9:15 a.m. VA Loma Linda Mobility Management provides a shuttle service for those Veterans who have an appointment at the new VA Ambulatory Care Center (ACC). The shuttle departs every 10 minutes from the front entrance of the VA Loma Linda main hospital and arrives at the east entrance of the ACC. The departure time from VA Loma Linda back to Victorville is at 3 p.m. with an arrival time at Victor Valley Transit Authority transfer point at 4:50 p.m.

Veterans must reserve a seat for V.E.T.S. To do so, the Veteran can call 1-800-741-8387, extension 6475 between the hours of 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at least 24 hours in advance of the appointment (up to 2 weeks prior to the appointment). Veterans must have a schedule appointment between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The V.E.T.S. program has collaborated with local community partners, including the Victorville Valley Transit Authority (VVTA) to coordinate pick-up point at the Victorville Transfer Point (VTP in Victorville on Lorene Drive between Valley Center Drive and 7th Street. Situated adjacent to Interstate 15 behind Costco.

Since 2010 I had been dependent on the Service Officer of Big Bear American Legion Post 584 to take me to and from my appointments at Loma Linda VAMC and a few at Redlands Orthopedic. December 2013 he became disabled and replaced in June 2014 by a Service Officer who, having full time employment is not available to take me to Loma Linda.

Disabled American Veteran (DAV) and AMVETS provide volunteer supported transportation services to Loma Linda VAMC. They use vans and run on schedules. None serve Big Bear.

Since 1987 the Disabled American Veterans organization has provided transportation for veterans nationwide to Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers. The reason given for not serving Big Bear is they cannot get volunteer drivers to handle the mountain roads. I have that from the DAV director in Loma Linda VAMC (see address below). I wrote the DAV Victorville to confirm this and got no answer. I depended on the DAV in Missouri for numerous round trips of over 100 miles. About 2005 they began experiencing shortage of volunteer drivers and their trips were limited to one or two days per week. There was NO public transportation alternative.

I have checked with agencies and organizations who service the senior population, such as the Mountain Regional Council on Aging, Lutheran Social Services and San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services. There is no alternative transportation to Loma Linda VAMC for me since taking the MARTA bus to San Bernardino and transferring to the Omnitrans bus to Loma Linda requires too much walking for me. The VAMC bus stop on Benton Street is about a 300 yard walk to the VAMC entrance.

I am 83, disabled due to athritis and have a low stress tolerance. My VA doctor approved my disabled parking placard in April 2014. I was taking meds for high blood pressure but that normalized in 2013, however I have a system that reacts to stress, usually with a high blood pressure "spike" from which I can calm down. I walk with a cane in a slow shuffle. And get stiff sitting long periods. I can't step off a curb and have difficulty on anything but level ice and snow free level ground. I have contacted Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority, (MARTA) and their Mobility Trainer, Brooke Lazzaro called and intended to accompany me to VAMC Loma Linda for my Oct 3rd, 2014 appointment. She resigned and BettyAnn Merrill of Marta emailed me," At this time, we do not have anyone available to meet with you or provide the training for your appointments at the VA hospital."

I bought a 1991 Subaru Jan 2014 for on the mountain errands. Neither it nor I are capable of driving to Loma Linda.

I applied for the CHOICE PROGRAM in February 2015 and formally enrolled in April 2015. It is run via Tricare an organization that serves the military. And is a new initiative by the VA to better service rural areas. I have now had two visits with doctors located in Big Bear and am waiting for a third. It has been a tremendous relief to not have to find a volunteer and go the Loma Linda VAMC for medical services.

Since August of 2014 I have raised four volunteers who have taken me to the Loma Linda VAMC.

An earlier version of the above was sent in Sept 2014 to the following: None Responded.

DAV contact: ERIC PORCHE, DSO/HSC JERRY L. PETTIS VAMC (605) (909) 583-6016
Steven Salazar, (TC) 11201 Benton, Rm. IF-39B (909) 583-6014
Loma Linda, CA 92357 FAX (909) 583-6041

Congressman Paul COOK
Apple Valley District Office
14955 Dale Evans Parkway
Apple Valley Town Hall
Apple Valley, CA 92307
11 Sept. 2014
Who responded as follows: 9-16-14. Email and phone call:
Dear Mr. Nix,   I wanted to let you know that I have forwarded your inquiry to Loma Linda VA Healthcare Systems.  If I hear anything back, I will let you know.  VA Loma Linda sometimes contacts the veteran in regards to their concerns, please let me know if that happens so that we can work together to find a resolution to this issue.  

Merlene Steinbeck
Congressional Caseworker
Congressman Paul Cook | Eighth District of California
14955 Dale Evans Parkway | Apple Valley, CA 92307
p. 760-247-1815 | f. 760-247-8073

PS: In Missouri I did an extensive survey of transportation from Southwest MO to VA Medical facilities, primarily VAMC Fayetteville Arkansas. I contacted my US congressional and senatorial offices and all providers personally. Other than the DAV, none offered means of transportation to Fayetteville, Arkansas.

CC: Jimmy Lona, Service Officer, American Legion Post 584, Big Bear, CA.

Mountain Regional Council on Aging,
PO BOX 1424

Email to Joe Nix,   or copy and paste

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