Veterans Ride Free program changing lives - Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center
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Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center

 

Veterans Ride Free program changing lives

Veterans have taken more than 9,000 free rides on Wichita buses since late July.

In just a little over three months, more than 9,000 free rides have been taken by Veterans on Wichita buses. The Veterans Ride Free program is a two-year pilot program sponsored by Wichita Transit, United Way of the Plains and the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center.

By Misty Lester
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

In partnership with Wichita Transit and United Way of the Plains, Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center proudly provided the first year of funding on a two-year pilot project known as Veterans Ride Free. The project started at the end of July this year and offers FREE unlimited rides for Veterans on all Wichita Transit routes. Veterans are required to have proper identification in order to ride free of charge. Since implementation, over 9,000 free rides have been provided to Veterans across the Wichita area.

“This program is unique because it not only provides rides to and from the VA or other healthcare appointments, but it provides free rides to anywhere a Veteran may need to go on a fixed route,” says Misty Lester, Chief of Social Work Service at Dole VA. “We practice a Whole Health model of healthcare at VA. That means that while health and mental health care are front and center, we also know that success comes from being able to get to work, access food and laundry facilities, and to attending church, community events, or engaging in other activities that promote well-being,” she stated.

Veterans have been very responsive to this program and several have stepped forward to share how this program has changed their lives. One such Veteran has been homeless for the past 30 years. He has been from city to city, experiencing extreme disconnect from society as a homeless Veteran. The Veteran’s Ride Free program has not only helped him gain access to needed resources to find housing but has in fact welcomed him back to society. The project has allowed this Veteran to attend cancer treatments, mental health appointments, access grocery stores and local banking institutions. He has on display in his apartment a portrait of himself with family that he had not seen in over 20 years. The Veterans Ride Free program allowed him to reunite with these family members. Without this program, it’s likely the same cycle of homelessness since exiting the military and societal isolation would have continued. Veterans Ride Free is making a difference in the lives of Veterans and we are proud to be a part of that.

Beginning on November 21, 2020, the Wichita Transit Route 24 that serves the Dole VA will now include a routine stop on the medical campus. Wichita Transit authorities indicated that a stop at the VA Medical Center had been made on a request-only basis for the past several years. Passengers would have to request the driver to stop there and call dispatch to request a pickup. We are thrilled that the Transit Authority has implemented this change and hope that it will be even easier for Veterans to make the trip to our VA campus for their care.

Robert J. Dole is a proud partner in the Veterans Ride Free project and looks forward to the many positive benefits this program brings to the lives of Veterans in Wichita.

For more information, please visit the United Way of the Plains website at: https://www.unitedwayplains.org/income/veterans-ride-free/

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