Vets on Kenai Peninsula get smoother ride to medical care

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Veterans on the Kenai Peninsula will continue to have help getting to and from medical services, thanks to the renewal of a transportation grant in the amount of $250,000 to the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs.

Any veteran on the Kenai Peninsula can get free transportation to the VA medical clinic in Kenai or outpatient clinic in Homer, as well as any VA-authorized vendors, like pharmacies, hospitals and medical specialists. Forest Powell, with the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs, says it even counts for trips to Anchorage, if the local VA refers a vet to a doctor in the city.

“You, as a veteran, get free transportation from here to the VA and return back, free,” Powell said.

The program covers the Kenai Peninsula, Denali, Matanuska-Susitna, Kodiak Island and Prince of Wales-Hyder Boroughs. The VA partners with a transportation provider in each area and reimburses them the costs for transporting veterans. On the peninsula, it’s Alaska Cab.

Veterans don’t have to have a service-connected health issue to use the service. There’s a separate source of funding to help those vets with medical transportation. Vets just need to be eligible for VA care.

Veterans using the service don’t have to fill out any forms, file a health insurance claim or pay in advance and be reimbursed. All they have to do is call Alaska Cab in advance to set up a ride, then show the driver one of four forms of identification — a VA health care card, a veterans retiree ID card, or a driver’s license or state ID with the veteran designation (an image of an American flag with a “V” on it). Spouses can ride along, too.

With Alaska’s size and distances between communities, transportation can often be a barrier to medical care. Powell said the rural transportation grant program is an important way the state can support its veterans.

Powell: “I’m a combat vet, I’ve been in the field, I’ve done eight tours over there in the desert, and my dad’s a Vietnam vet. My grandfather’s a WWII veteran. … So I understand. It’s very important to me to take care of you, the veteran.”

For more information on the travel grant, or VA care in general, call the Kenai Veterans Clinic at 395-4100.

A Veterans’ Listening Session will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday in the McLane Commons at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. This session will be provided Alaska VA Healthcare System Interim Director Linda L. Boyle. For more information, contact Drew Baker, KPC veteran services coordinator, at 262-0261 or rdbaker3@kpc.alaska.edu. It is open to the public.

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