The need for veteran transportation is growing rapidly because of the increasing number of older veterans as well as the numerous injured service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, for every fatality in Iraq, there are 16 wounded or injured soldiers. This represents an injury rate five times greater than during the Vietnam War. Thirty percent of veterans live in rural areas that often present transportation challenges. Many veterans in rural areas must travel extremely long distances to receive medical care, and veterans living in rural areas are reported to be in poorer health than veterans living in urban areas.
The objective of this study was to identify veterans with mobility needs currently living in rural Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota, and to quantify the cost of feasible transportation options for meeting veteran mobility needs. Special attention was given to the medical transportation of veterans to VA health care centers. This study included a survey of veterans and a simulation of their health care transportation costs.
Online and paper surveys were distributed to veterans throughout Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota. More than 80% of respondents classified themselves as disabled with nearly three-fourths of these indicating that their veteran disability rating is greater than 30%. The most common disability survey respondents reported having was a mobility impairment, followed by hearing impairment and mental health issues.
When simulating a coordination effort between VA health care centers and rural public transit agencies using @Risk analysis software, results varied by state and region because of varying operating costs and fare recovery rates. Minnesota simulations had the highest fare recovery rate compared to Montana and North Dakota. Simulated veteran medical trips serving the Sioux Falls, SD, VA Health Care Center had the highest cost per mile and fare recovery rate compared to other regional veteran health care centers in Fargo, ND, St. Cloud, MN, and Missoula, MT. Overall, most simulations indicated that a coordination effort between VA health care centers and rural public transit agencies would be feasible if estimated ridership levels could be attained.
About the Presenters: Del Peterson, Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (SURTC) at North Dakota State University (NDSU)
Del Peterson is an associate research fellow with the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (SURTC) located at North Dakota State University (NDSU). He began working with SURTC in February, 2003. He has conducted research pertaining to senior transportation, the transit vehicle industry, veteran mobility, alternative fuels, the built environment, and passenger mobility enhancements utilizing geographic information systems (GIS) and similar technologies. He holds a B.A. in business management and economics and an M.S. in agribusiness and applied economics with an emphasis in transportation economics.