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Gazette-Mail editorial: Volunteers needed to help veterans

The West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance is making the right move in rejoining the Disabled American Veterans program in which volunteers drive veterans with no other means of transportation to their medical appointments.

The program, as it pertains to the drivers, should never have come under state authority, but, in 2014, West Virginia decided to become the only state to pay drivers a stipend to do the work. Now, it has reached the point where the Department of Veterans Assistance can’t both maintain a vehicle fleet and pay drivers on its budget, so re-integrating with the DAV program is a logical step.

Naturally, the decision has been unpopular with some drivers who would rather continue to be paid than provide their services on a volunteer basis. The switchover isn’t until July 1, but officials who coordinate the driving schedules at Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics say they are already losing drivers.

The stipend was never intended to be a salary for drivers, but the Department of Veterans Assistance anticipated it would lose drivers, which is why the agency is trying to get the word out to recruit more volunteers.

Like any other shift in statewide policy, the southern counties will probably be the most affected. With the population spread out, it’s a more difficult area to serve. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.

In West Virginia, 8 percent of the population is comprised of military veterans. Mountain State residents are proud of their strong ties to the U.S. Military. Veterans have access to some of the best health care the federal government can provide among the state’s 10 VA hospitals and clinics, but it doesn’t do them any good if they can’t get there.

The men and women who served the country are relying on fellow West Virginians to step up, and it’s a call that cannot afford to go unanswered.

We urge those who are inclined and able to help to reach out and do so by contacting their local VA hospital or clinic. Drivers must be 21, must be able to be insured and must pass a physical and background check.

The hours and miles can be long, but what more noble act of selflessness is there than helping the ones who served the United States reach the health care they’ve earned?

Funerals for Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Berdine, Robert - 2 p.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation Inc., Arnoldsburg.

Bonsall, Buddy - 11 a.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Holstein, Gary - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Keener, John - 8 p.m., Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Miller, Edward - 1 p.m., Taylor-Vandale Funeral Home, Spencer.

Wright, Virginia - 11 a.m., Nitro Church of God, Nitro.