VA chief: Vets asked if they have ride home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
Salisbury Post
Responding to concerns raised at a March 20 veterans roundtable, the interim assistant director of the Hefner VA Medical Center said patients are asked if they have a ride home in their discharge plans.
“Discharge planning begins on the day of admission,” said Assistant Interim Director Tim Doherty. “We do an assessment on all of their psychosocial needs, and if transportation is identified as a need, then we start planning on that day.”
Doherty said medical center vehicles, along with community transportation resources, can be used to transport patients. Staff may use money from an indigent fund to cover the cost, he said, and may also try to contact family and friends of patients to come pick them up.
Representatives of local American Legion and VFW posts said at the roundtable ó sponsored by 12th District Congressman Mel Watt at the 3006 VFW on Brenner Avenue ó that veterans were coming to them for rides or money to pay for transportation after being released from the medical center without a way home.
Doherty said it was difficult to respond to the concerns without knowing if the patients were without transportation after being discharged as inpatients or after being treated and released in the emergency department or seen on an outpatient basis.
“It could mean, ‘My friend dropped me off at the emergency department and he had to go to work and now I don’t have a way home,’ ” he said. “That’s kind of a different situation.”
When VA staff know about transportation problems, Doherty said, they do whatever it takes to ensure that patients get home safely.
Veterans being released from the emergency department without a ride home, for example, would be referred to the social worker on duty, he said,
Doherty said the Salisbury VA has an interdisciplinary work group that keeps an updated list of available community resources and is looking at working out a multi-county transportation network. A lot of the community transportation systems do not transport beyond county lines.
Transportation is an ongoing problem for hospitals, he said. “We probably do better than most.”
Watt told the 50 people at the roundtable that he would look into the matter of veterans being discharged without transportation or money to pay for a way home.
Doherty said he did not know if Watt or his staff had talked with officials at the VA.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or