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Veterans in the dark about new transport service

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Photo: Video by ktnv.com

Veterans in the dark about new transport service

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Mar 28, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Lack of information. Lack of communication. Confusion. That's what veterans said they've gotten from the VA since learning their long-time transportation service is ending.

Combat engineer and demolition specialist Larry Mangels has diabetes and is about to lose his left foot to amputation, "Just take it a day at a time."

Former Marine Frank Black has cellulitis from shrapnel in his leg, "Honestly? I'm a Marine. I don't cry. But I got tears in my eyes."

Vietnam Veteran Roger Echols is blind, "I'm only one of so many that use this service."

Retired Master Sergeant Bob Berry is 93-years-old and hasn't been able to drive for years, "We need more service, not less."

These are just a few of the veterans who've been using a contracted transportation service paid for by the VA And run by Scott McAtee and Jerry Welch.

Friday, March 28, ended the decades-long van service that these veterans have come to rely on.

"Why you want to try to fix what ain't broke?" asked Echols.

The contract is ending because the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is starting its own, in-house transport service they said will be just as good, and cost taxpayers a whole lot less.

Bob Berry believes, "It's to save money off the backs of us veterans, and that's wrong."

And, there's something else.

Contact 13 has learned the new drivers will be just that. Drivers. With no medical background or training. Something veterans have been getting with Jerry, a certified paramedic, and Scott, who's been in emergency medical services for more than 20 years.

"But beyond that," said Scott, "there's the personal care that we give."

Veterans told Contact 13 they've been left in the dark about how the new service will work. Some have had to cancel appointments and reschedule for weeks later.

They said they've been unable to get any information from the VA about who to call to arrange rides. But all that is about to change. 

Beginning Monday at clinics and the main hospital, veterans will find volunteer greeters and posters with information and a toll-free number for scheduling rides.

They'll also get hand-outs and be able to find information on the VA's website, Facebook and Twitter.

Also, emails will go out to all employees so they can answer veterans' questions as well.

Though the VA said it will be an upgrade and they're committed to no veteran left behind, the vets we spoke to are very sad to see Scott and Jerry go.

"I'll tell you what," said Frank Black. "They can be in my foxhole with me any time."

More Information:

Toll-free number for patients to use 24/7 to make reservations: 1-844-859-5074

Facebook: VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System

Twitter: VA Las Vegas

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Transportation Services

Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.