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What you need to know for 04/24/2017

Van for veterans to cut days it makes trip to VA Medical Center

military

Van for veterans to cut days it makes trip to VA Medical Center

The county-funded van that takes military vans to VA appointments will operate on fewer days.

A county-funded van that takes military veterans to Veterans Administration appointments in Albany will reduce its days of operation, county leaders have decided.

The county’s Veterans Committee on Monday approved cutting the van’s operations from five days a week to the three busiest days — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

“We’re trying to be a little more efficient,” said county Veterans Services Agency Director Andrew Davis, who requested the change.

The move, effective Nov. 1, will save the Veterans Services Agency about $19,000 a year, Davis estimated. Running the van, which has pickup points in every town in the county, is one of the agency’s biggest expenses, he said.

Only about 114 people are recurring users, Davis said, out of about 7,000 veterans registered with his office.

“When comparing these figures to the department’s budget and time spent managing the service, this can be viewed as an extremely unbalanced use or resources and staff,” Davis said.

The van can hold 10 to 12 people, and is carrying seven or more people on its busy days, Davis said. It may carry only one or two people on Mondays and Wednesdays, he said.

The van gets 11 miles per gallon, he said, so a trip for only one or two people is very inefficient, Davis told the committee. On a three-day schedule, he hopes it will be full for every run.

The van program was started in the 1990s to give veterans a way to get to medical and counseling appointments at the Stratton VA Medical Center without driving themselves. The county does not receive any federal or state reimbursements for its services.

A different van operated by the Saratoga County Rural Preservation Co. provides transportation to the VA center for people living in the company’s two shelters for homeless veterans.

Davis said it’s not usual for other counties to only provide van service on a limited number of days. Columbia, Washington and Montgomery counties all have vans serving the VA center two or three days a week, he said.

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