About 3.3 million Veterans enrolled in the VA Healthcare System (about 41 percent of the total Veterans enrolled) live in rural or highly rural areas of the country. VA Butler Healthcare is located in a rural setting, and has been working harder than ever to make health care more accessible through telehealth programs, expanded VA Outpatient Clinics, and online communication tools such as My HealtheVet’s Secure Messaging and social media. We’re available more often and in more places than ever before.
We serve a five county area – Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Lawrence, and Mercer. Veterans that live farthest away from a VA Outpatient Clinic can be defined as rural. A recent study conducted at VA Butler revealed that a lack of transportation was a major problem for our more rural Veterans. In fact, those who missed their VA appointments often did so because of a lack of transportation, be that not having a car available, insufficient travel funds, or the inability to drive due to poor health.
We understand traveling a long distance and not having the ability to drive yourself can make it hard to get here. How can we help? Here are just a few of the ways:
“If you’re having trouble with a ride, it’s nothing to be shy about,” said VA Butler social worker Jaime Brewer who is the team lead for the Access to Care Systems Redesign Team. “We have a lot of Veterans in that situation, and we have the resources to help you. We want to help get you to your VA appointment.”
VA Butler Healthcare also offers a shuttle to VA Pittsburgh twice daily for Veterans who have appointments there. The first shuttle bus left from VA Butler to VA Pittsburgh in 1995 and was driven by Robert Wilhite, a Navy Veteran who has worked for the VA for 32 years and now serves as VA Butler’s Grounds & Transportation Work Leader. “The shuttle is a nice service for our Veterans. Our drivers help lead Veterans where they need to go and really do care about them,” he said. “It is a great experience for our drivers too. It’s interesting to hear the Veteran’s stories on the drive.”
86 year old Air Force Veteran Stanley McCollough has been taking the shuttle bus from VA Butler to VA Pittsburgh regularly for about a year now with his wife Patricia. “The drivers are always really great, they’re very courteous,” said Stan. “I don’t have a lot of patience waiting in traffic…they do a great job!”
Without the shuttle bus, Stan, who is legally blind and unable to drive himself would have to rely on his wife to get him to and from VA Pittsburgh, which is about a two-hour drive from their house. “It [the shuttle] is a great source. People that don’t know about it – they’re really missing out!” Stan said.
Stan also uses community resources to get around, specifically the Butler Area Rural Transit, known as BART. BART is a shared ride program that provides transportation in Butler County. “I think we’re lucky here in Butler – a good transportation system and a great VA,” said Stan.
To learn more about VA transportation resources, talk to your health care team or call 800.362.8262.