VetsRide: Getting veterans to the care they need

Elizabeth Howe
September 20, 2018 - 4:25 pm

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

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“We recognize that our biggest issue is not veterans getting care, but veterans getting to their care,” said Elliot Tommingo, outreach specialist with the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs.

So, with the Department of For-Hire Vehicles, they started VetsRide.

VetsRide launched as a pilot effort in November 2017 with $60,000 in funding and the goal of transporting low-income D.C. veterans to medical appointments, educational opportunities and employment interviews. By the time the funds ran out in February 2018, VetsRide had provided 2,400 rides.

“We were able to find some end of year funding so we relaunched it again on July 10th,” Tommingo said. “To date, we’ve done about 5,000 rides total, and we now have stable funding.”

Photo courtesy of MOVA

"Mayor Muriel Bowser tasked us with identifying solutions for helping our more vulnerable residents," said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner. "The VetsRide program answers this call. It is vital to ensuring our veterans have access to transportation options that connect them to critical resources in our community. And we are pleased that our taxicab system is able to support in this effort.”

The program looks to close the gaps that federal support doesn't have the reach to fill. 

"The cost of living in D.C. is very high — one of the highest in the country," said Tommingo. "The federal Department of Veterans Affairs does its best to take care of veterans, but it can't cover every state's needs. So there are different gaps in different states, and ours here is definitely the cost of transportation."

Of the 250-300 veterans in the D.C. area that fit the demographic requirement to be eligible for VetsRide, 215 are currently enrolled. As the program continues to grow and establish stable means of funding, the hope is to achieve 100 percent enrollment.