Cavalier County was one of a select few of highly rural counties in North Dakota to receive a van from the North Dakota Veterans Affairs (NDDVA).
Posted on 11/28/15
By Melissa Anderson
NDDVA Commissioner Lonnie Wangen worked on the grant for a number of years, and this year the NDDVA received funds to supply a total of eight handicap accessible vans, with six vans being given out.
The six passenger vans that have been distributed to counties fitting the criteria are 2015 Dodge Caravans. The vans have been converted to be wheel chair accessible with a ramp and chair tie downs so up to two wheelchair-bound veterans can ride at the same time.
The vans can be used to transport veterans to their medical appointments. The medical appointments do not have to be located at a Federal VA but can be at any health care provider.
“Any medical facility that the veteran needs to go to such as eye doctors or chiropractors. Any medical appointment, anywhere pretty much within the eastern half of the state,” Leon Hiltner, Veterans Service Officer for Cavalier County, said.
The van was received by Hiltner in July of 2015, but it was not until recently that the van began servicing veterans in the area.
” I will be receiving a grant to specifically fund the operation of the van. It’s been approved and is in the works,” Hiltner said.
So far, the van has taken veterans to appointments in Grand Forks, Fargo, and Cavalier.
“If a veteran in Pembina or Walsh county needs a ride because they can’t get to their appointment, so long as it’s on the way, we will pick them up,” Hiltner said.
For those who are interested in using the van Hiltner asks that they try to give advanced notice of at least 72 hours in order for Hiltner to be able to provide the service.
“They can schedule it out months ahead as soon as they make the appointment,” Hiltner said.
A veteran who wishes to use the van service is allowed to bring one caregiver with them. Hiltner prefers that those who use the service bring someone with them as the driver is not responsible for caring for the veteran beyond driving responsibilities.
“My biggest problem right now is I need more drivers,” Hiltner said.
Hiltner is most in need of a rotation of paid volunteer drivers. Hiltner has three to four drivers already but would like to see a half dozen or more drivers available to make the program easier and more readily available.
“I really need additional drivers. When you only have one or two, it’s hard for them to be available all the time,” Hiltner said.
There is no special license required to volunteer for the program. The only requirement is a clean driving record. Hiltner explained that the paid volunteers would need to have a photo of their license and fill-out a contract.
“These drivers are considered contracted county employees as opposed to regular county employees so the rules are a little different,” Hiltner explained.
Overall, Hiltner stressed that any veteran can use the van and asks that they do so or risk losing the service.
” We need to use it now, or we may lose it in the future,” Hiltner said.
To contact Hiltner to schedule the van or to discuss volunteering to drive the van please call one of the following:
Veterans Office: 256-2146 and leave a message, Hiltner’s home: 256-2188, Hiltner’s cell: 370-8986 or call the Cavalier County Transit at 256-2828, and they can assist in scheduling a ride for a veteran.