MAYVILLE - The growth of veteran services and improvements to healthcare and clinical services for veterans across the region has enabled the Chautauqua County Veterans Service Agency to find another way to reduce costs for county taxpayers.
In 2006 the Chautauqua County Veterans Service Agency was funded with $257,059 by the taxpayers, and filed 130 claims while arranging for necessary transportation for Veterans outside the County for medical treatment. Since 2006 the County has been working to increase services, improve access for Veterans to healthcare, and become a more efficient operation.
"The result of this significant effort has been that we combined our VSA and Office for the Aging offices in Jamestown and co-located them with the Veterans-only Health Clinic," Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards said. "We participated in the formation of a Veterans Court, purchased a brand new van to transport veterans, and filed almost three times as many claims in 2011, and we did this while cutting the costs to our taxpayers by approximately 22 percent."
While the successes are clear, continued focus on efficiencies has created a new opportunity to maintain services while reducing costs.
The county VSA currently operates two free transportation services to the Veteran Administration Medical Center in Erie, Pa., every Thursday, and to the Buffalo VAMC every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. These veterans' hospitals have been promoting the use of Chautauqua County's veterans-only clinics which have expanded services to local veterans. Also, the Disabled American Veterans, a national nonprofit organization, is now operating van transportation to each of the veterans' hospitals.
According to statistics from the Chautauqua County VSA, the ridership on their Erie van has been reduced to 12 veterans who made just 10 trips in the last four months with anywhere from three people to one person riding the bus per trip.
"The DAV van that goes to the Erie VAMC has agreed to transport these 12 veterans and any other veterans that may need this service at no cost to either the veterans or the county," Edwards said. "As a result, as of Jan. 1, 2013, the Chautauqua County Veterans Service Agency will be discontinuing its transportation services to the Erie VAMC."
By discontinuing the trips to Erie, it would save Chautauqua County over $5,500 per year in fuel, maintenance, and other operating costs that can then be invested in other veterans' services.
"Although we are eliminating our runs to Erie, veterans will not be losing any medical services," Chautauqua County Veterans Service Agency Director Doug Diers said. "We will still be providing trips to the Buffalo VAMC, which provides the same quality of care and service entitlements to our county veterans and their dependents. In addition, veterans who enjoy going to Erie for their medical services can still do so by taking advantage of the DAV van."
Diers also said that the VSA has attempted to contact all of the veterans who have used the county's van service to Erie in the last year and have connected them with the Erie DAV van to assure that they have a seamless transition.
"I would like to thank the team at our County Veterans Service Agency for their commitment to the quality of service to our veterans and it is excellent to see the numerous services available for the men and women who have served our nation," Edwards said.
Veterans who are interested in using the DAV Van to go to the VAMC in Erie should contact Erie DAV Volunteer Service Coordinator Karen O'Neil at (814) 860-2454 to schedule an appointment.
Note that all rides require a five-day advance notice.
For more information contact the Veterans Service Agency at 661-8255.