Transportation

Did you ever think what true service is to disabled veterans? How about 287.6 trips around the earth? As ridiculous as it sounds, that figure is a reality in Massachusetts. Since the inception of the DAV Transportation Program in our Commonwealth in 1987, we have traveled 7,150,000 miles or 287.6 trips around the earth. These figures increase with the passing of each day. What is even more incredible, all these miles are driven by volunteer drivers who have accumulated 520,000 volunteer hours. They have driven close to 240,000 veterans from their homes to VA medical centers for appointments. In addition we have purchased 63 vans and donated them to the VA medical centers for a cost of $2,000,000 in conjunction with our organization’s Columbia Trust. The money raised for these vehicles is from the public and our own membership donations.

At each one of the five Massachusetts VA medical centers, we have a Hospital Service Coordinator (HSC) who schedules the veterans’ rides and also assigns the volunteer drivers for these trips. These services are provided free of charge.

For some disabled veterans, reliable transportation means the difference between regular preventative health care and only discovering a condition once it has become acute. With the returning veterans who suffer traumatic brain injuries and amputations, this transportation service provides an invaluable resource for their care and readjustment back into society.

As an organization that advocates for veterans, we are aware of the need to develop partnerships with corporations in the Commonwealth that share these goals and understand the sacrifice of the men and women who served in our military. Commitment to their needs is a testament to them that as a community we care, and our resolve is unwavering. We are always looking for volunteer drivers so we can serve even more deserving veterans.

DAV fully supports Senator Rush's legislation to make the Secretary of Veteran Services a cabinet level position.
It is unfortunate that the Secretary of Veteran Services is really a Secretary in name only answering to the Secretary of HHS and not the Governor.
Our Veterans deserve a seat at the table communicating directly with the Governor. Thank you Senator Rush for filing this important legislation.Today, I filed legislation to place the Secretary of Veterans’ Services as part of the Governor’s cabinet; therefore, responsible for reporting directly to the Governor. Currently the “Secretary” reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, not the Governor, which is a total disservice to our states almost 400,000 Veterans!

This legislation will ensure that the voices of Massachusetts veterans, our active and reserve service members and their families are heard loud and clear!
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The DAV is saddened and disappointed by yesterdays report on the tragedy at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

DAV hopes this tragedy is the catalyst for real change both within the Soldiers' homes system and within the Department of Veteran Services. Both the soldiers' home system and DVS are in need of reform and modernization.

DAV has officially requested that the House and Senate create a special joint committee to examine the way in which the Commonwealth cares for older Veterans. We have asked that this committee be granted subpoena power for both records and testimony. DAV urges it be properly staffed with investigators and experts to conduct a broad and in depth examination of the entire soldiers' home system including whether this system should continue in its current form. Legislative recommendations should be made at the conclusion of the investigation.

DAV is encouraged that the Governor will be announcing reforms. We urge his administration to take a deep and broad look at our veterans services systems with the goal of systematic change and improvement. We urge that the selection of the next Secretary of Veteran Services will be conducted with full transparency and with input from Veteran advocates.

DAV feels that a systems review of this magnitude is long overdue. There have been many attempts to make legislative changes to this system over the years. However without a full and detailed understanding of the current needs and holes in services no meaningful change is possible. This is a serious public health issue. We as a Commonwealth owe it to our most vulnerable and honorable citizens to do better.

This oversight review, if conducted under the proper legal authority, staffing and funding will lay out a path to reform. All of the Commonwealth’s veterans deserve to feel confident that if they one day become a resident of a state-run veteran care facility that they will flourish and not perish. It will require all of us to take a hard look at how we serve our elderly Veterans. It will be difficult but we must have the courage to do better for these men and women.
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