A Mission to Serve
State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation
A Mission to Serve
State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation
By Jaime Rall and Alice Wheet
With Sup...
The National Conference of State Legislatures is the bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and
staffs of the...
National Conference of State Legislatures | iii
A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Tran...
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A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Trans...
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NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013
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NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013

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Page 10 of this study discusses the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) National Transportation Program. It cites: "Further, it can be difficult not only to recruit volunteer drivers,
but also to ensure the condition and safety of volunteers’ personal vehicles (NCSL Survey, 2012). Perhaps the DAV’s
greatest limitation is that most of its vehicles are not wheelchair-accessible, and its volunteer drivers are not authorized to
lift or provide medical services to any rider; thus, its services cannot be used by many veterans who have severe mobility
impairments.18" January 2013

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NCSL Mission to Serve Veterans Transportation Study 2013

  1. 1. A Mission to Serve State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation
  2. 2. A Mission to Serve State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation By Jaime Rall and Alice Wheet With Support from the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor William T. Pound Executive Director 7700 East First Place Denver, Colorado 80230 (303) 364-7700 444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 515 Washington, D.C. 20001 (202) 624-5400 www.ncsl.org January 2013
  3. 3. The National Conference of State Legislatures is the bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system. Its objectives are: • To improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures. • To promote policy innovation and communication among state legislatures. • To ensure state legislatures a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system. The Conference operates from offices in Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. Printed on recycled paper. © 2013 by the National Conference of State Legislatures. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-58024-681-1 Cover photo (top left): Courtesy of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  4. 4. National Conference of State Legislatures | iii A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Contents Acknowledgments...........................................................................................................................................iv Acronyms and Abbreviations...........................................................................................................................iv Introduction.....................................................................................................................................................1 Veterans’ Transportation Needs........................................................................................................................2 Public and Private Roles in Helping Veterans Access Transportation.................................................................3 Federal Roles................................................................................................................................................3 Regional, Local and Private Roles.................................................................................................................4 State Roles....................................................................................................................................................4 State Interagency Coordination................................................................................................................4 State Funding for Veterans’ Transportation...............................................................................................6 State Veterans’ Transportation Programs...................................................................................................7 State Leadership for Veterans’ Transportation Activities............................................................................8 Exemptions from Transportation-Related Fees, Taxes, Fares and Tolls.....................................................11 Special Privileges....................................................................................................................................14 Other State Roles...................................................................................................................................14 Case Studies...................................................................................................................................................16 Oregon.......................................................................................................................................................16 Texas..........................................................................................................................................................17 Wisconsin..................................................................................................................................................18 Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead..............................................................................................................19 State Profiles...................................................................................................................................................23 Appendix A. NCSL Veterans’ Transportation Survey......................................................................................57 Appendix B. NCSL Veterans’ Transportation Survey Respondents.................................................................60 Key Resources................................................................................................................................................63 Notes.............................................................................................................................................................64 Tables and Figures Figures 1. State-Level Interagency Coordination Concerning Veterans’ Transportation................................................5 2. State Human Service Transportation Coordinating Councils.......................................................................5 3. State Funding for Veterans’ Transportation..................................................................................................7 4. 2011 and 2012 Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) Grant Awards............8 5. Surviving Spouses Eligible for Certain Veterans’ Transportation Benefits...................................................11 6. Vehicle Registration Fees or Taxes Waived or Reduced for Veterans...........................................................12 7. License Plate Fees Waived or Reduced for Veterans....................................................................................12 8. Vehicle Taxes Waived or Reduced for Veterans...........................................................................................13 Table 1. Lessons Learned from NCSL Veterans’ Transportation Survey Respondents......................................19
  5. 5. National Conference of State Legislatures | iv A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Acknowledgments The authors wish to thank, first and foremost, the many people in the states and territories who are working tirelessly to ensure that military veterans have real transportation choices. Without their efforts—and their generosity in telling us about them in surveys and interviews—this report would not exist. Special thanks go to stakeholders in Oregon and Texas who reviewed early survey drafts and outlines, and to the former United We Ride Ambassadors, who for years were a constant source of encouragement and expert knowledge about coordinated human service transportation across the country. We also are grateful to Angela Schreffler of the Denver Regional Mobility and Access Council (DRMAC) and other participants in the Colorado Veterans Transportation Task Force, who welcomed us to one of their meetings and illumi- nated some of the cultural and practical issues in building meaningful partnerships among transportation and veterans’ organizations. Thanks, too, go to NCSL staffer Claire Lewis and interns Simon Workman, Crystal Cook and Jocelyn Durkay for their assistance with project development, survey outreach, in-depth research and careful proofreading. We were privileged to discuss our preliminary findings with the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans’ Affairs at NCSL’s Legislative Summit in August 2012. The task force exists to examine issues that affect military-community relations and the health and well-being of veterans, and has explored a broad range of state policy issues related to the ever-growing challenges facing today’s military personnel, veterans and their dependents. We thank them for their valu- able insights. Once again, we extend our special gratitude to our partners at the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Depart- ment of Labor, whose support and vision made this report possible. We have been honored to work with them over the years on many collaborative efforts to improve personal mobility for all Americans, especially those who are most in need of transportation alternatives. Acronyms and Abbreviations DAV Disabled American Veterans DOT Department of Transportation FTA Federal Transit Administration MPO Metropolitan Planning Organization NCSL National Conference of State Legislatures RPA Regional Planning Association VA U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs VHA Veterans Health Administration VISN Veterans Integrated Service Network VSO Veterans Service Officer or Veterans Service Organization VTCLI Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative VTS Veterans Transportation Service
  6. 6. National Conference of State Legislatures | 1 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Introduction Today, about 23 million Americans are military veterans, with tens of thousands more returning home as the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan winds down. Many of these men and women need reliable, affordable and accessible transportation choices to get to work and school, visit family and friends, and receive medical care and community ser- vices. Indeed, without transportation, veterans may find it difficult to access the many benefits they have earned through their service or to meet the new challenges of returning to civilian life. Veterans’ unique and diverse transportation needs are met through public agencies at every level of government, private nonprofits, peer networks, families, volunteers and veterans service organizations. In particular, many states are now working to ensure that every veteran, regardless of his or her geographical location, physical ability, financial constraints or other circumstances, has a dignified and dedicated means of transportation for everyday and special travel. In 2012, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)—under a cooperative agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the U.S. Department of Labor—embarked on an analysis of state efforts to enhance transportation mobility for veterans, based largely on in-depth, original survey research. NCSL surveyed hundreds of individuals in state legislatures, departments of transportation (DOTs), departments of veterans affairs, transit agencies, nonprofit organizations and other groups such as human service transportation coordinating councils (see Appendix A for the survey text and Appendix B for a full list of responding organizations). All information in this report taken from the survey data is identified as such in the text or cited in parentheses as (NCSL Survey, 2012). The survey findings were supplemented by statutory and legislative searches, interviews with key officials and other research. The resulting report provides a synthesis of state veterans’ transportation efforts nationwide; in-depth case studies of efforts in Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin; and detailed profiles for all 50 states and other jurisdictions that responded to the survey (District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico). The focus throughout the report is on state-level activities—especially those created through statute, regulation or legislation—that facilitate access to trans- portation mobility for all military veterans, for all purposes.
  7. 7. National Conference of State Legislatures | 2 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Veterans’Transportation Needs Transportation matters, both for relatively young veterans who are returning from recent combat and for older veterans who served in past conflicts. For many veterans of all ages, transportation to work, school, medical appointments, shop- ping, and social events or other activities has become a hardship because of a disability, illness or financial constraints. A host of societal and demographic changes also have led to specific mobility challenges for veterans. For example, about 40 percent of the nation’s veterans are 65 and older.1 Many World War II and Korean War veterans no longer drive, but are more likely to need ongoing health care as they age. At the same time, this trend is reducing available services because older veterans often are the core volunteers upon which many veterans’ transportation programs depend.2 Meanwhile, younger veterans are surviving battlefield injuries that were fatal in previous wars and that require continuing therapeutic care. Today, the ratio of injuries to fatalities is 16 to 1—six times greater than during the Vietnam War.3 Of the 1.8 mil- lion people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 360,000 have traumatic brain injuries,4 and 26 percent of those who have served since 2001 have a service-connected disability, compared with 14 percent of all veterans.5 In total, of America’s 23 million veterans, more than 3 million are receiving U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation.6 Veterans also are more at risk than the general population for unemployment, homelessness, post-traumatic stress dis- order, major depression and suicide.7 These men and women need access to jobs, training, social services, mental health care and social activities. A disproportionate number of them, however, live in rural areas where both community ser- vices and transportation are less available. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Approximately 4 in 10 veterans live in rural areas where affordable transportation options are often limited, and where it’s necessary to travel great distances to receive medical care, reach employment centers, and access other services to which they are entitled.”8 A common misconception is that dedicated federal and volunteer programs meet all veterans’ transportation needs. Although valuable, these programs—discussed further in the next section—are limited and focus mainly on medical transportation. A need remains for more comprehensive mobility solutions.
  8. 8. National Conference of State Legislatures | 3 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Public and Private Roles in Helping Veterans Access Transportation All levels of government, private nonprofits and other volunteer organizations have programs that help veterans meet their transportation needs. Federal programs typically set broad national policy and initiatives, while local entities are more apt to address specific service issues. This section provides a brief, context-setting review of federal, regional, local and private involvement, then highlights uniquely state-level programs and initiatives. Federal Roles The federal government provides dedicated but limited transportation assistance through the VA. This assistance is pri- marily focused on facilitating access to medical care. The VA operates the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)—an integrated health care system of 152 medical centers, 1,400 community-based outpatient clinics and other facilities— and provides transportation benefits to help veterans reach its facilities. As authorized in federal law,9 the VA’s Beneficiary Travel Program can reimburse qualifying veterans for mileage costs, special transportation or, in some cases, taxis or hired vehicles to VA or VA-authorized medical facilities. In 2008, the mileage reimbursement rate was increased from 11 cents per mile to 41.5 cents per mile10 to help offset veterans’ fuel costs. Other programs include the Automobile and Adaptive Equipment for Certain Disabled Veterans and Members of the Armed Forces program, managed by the VA through the Veterans Benefits Administration.11 This program offers a one- time payment toward purchase of a personal vehicle, including adaptive equipment or other needs related to certain disabilities. The VA in some cases also can authorize special transportation assistance related to vocational rehabilitation and employment.12 In addition to these traditional roles, the federal government has recently initiated new activities to support transporta- tion for veterans. Since 2011, the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI)—a partnership among the U.S. departments of Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Defense, and Health and Human Services—has awarded $63.6 million in discretionary grants to projects in 38 states, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam that make it easier for veterans, service members and military families to learn about and arrange for local transportation.13 Many of the funded projects are either statewide or under state leadership (see page 8 and State Profiles for details). Several survey respondents noted that the VTCLI program has been the impetus for further conversations, planning and action among state agencies, transportation providers and other stakeholders. Thus, the initiative has provided not only needed funds, but also high-level leadership concerning veterans’ transportation needs. Historically, the VA and its medical facilities have not engaged in providing direct transportation services, assuming instead that veterans who could not drive would get rides from their families or use existing resources such as veterans service organizations (VSOs) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) transportation network (see also page 4). In 2010, however, the VA launched its Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) to enhance, coordinate and, in some cases, provide transportation to VA medical centers. The program is especially intended to benefit veterans who are visually impaired, older adults, immobilized due to disease or disability, or who live in rural areas. The VTS now consists of 45 pilot projects and will be fully established by 2015. So far, more than $16 million in VA funding has been dedicated to purchase new vehicles and also to improve the efficiency of existing resources.14 In May and June 2012, the Federal Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility and the U.S. Department of Defense sponsored a National Online Dialogue on Veterans’ Transportation to generate ideas about how to strengthen transpor- tation choices for veterans who have served their country.15 More than 450 stakeholders gathered to identify transporta- tion needs, challenges and opportunities facing veterans, wounded warriors, military service members and their families. The dialogue produced specific suggestions to improve veterans’ transportation.
  9. 9. National Conference of State Legislatures | 4 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation “Volunteer drivers tend to be elderly retirees who are veterans themselves. Many available drivers are well into their 70s. Younger potential drivers are still employed outside the home and are not available for what is often [a full] day of volunteer driving services.” —NCSL Survey Respondent Regional, Local and Private Roles Regional and local groups are primarily engaged in providing direct services and identifying needs in their areas. These groups, which can be either public or private, can include transit agencies; planning entities such as metropolitan plan- ning organizations (MPOs) and regional planning associations (RPAs); local veterans service organizations (VSOs); or private nonprofits such as the DAV and Wounded Warriors. Private for-profit organizations such as taxi and paratransit companies also may play a role in transporting veterans. The DAV, along with other services, provides sick and disabled veterans with free rides to and from VA medical facilities, either in DAV-donated vans or volunteer-owned vehicles. The DAV is staffed by volunteers who also are veterans—a clear example of “veterans helping veterans.” The DAV website notes that the service came about to fill a need when the federal government made cuts to its transportation benefits.16 Since the DAV began its transportation efforts in 1987, the organization has donated 2,519 vehicles, transported more than 13 million veterans almost 500 million miles, and devoted more than 27 million volunteer hours in transporting veterans to VA medical facilities. The DAV, according to a recent Transportation Research Board analysis, “remains a key component of transportation services to veterans.”17 Some survey respondents—especially from veterans’ agencies—described the DAV as highly effective at meeting medical transportation needs of veter- ans in their areas. Respondents also, however, noted service gaps. The DAV provides transportation to VA facilities only, not to local hospitals or other destinations. In reality, veterans have many diverse transportation needs in addition to reaching a VA health care facility. Like anyone else, veterans also need transportation to access education, employment, recreation and com- munity services, and for many other purposes (see also page 2). In addition, the DAV has limited resources. It cannot cover every community and, in some places, the volunteer-based system cannot handle the sheer volume of travelers. Services also may operate on fixed routes, making for long travel times for travelers who are first on or last off the van. Further, it can be difficult not only to recruit volunteer drivers, but also to ensure the condition and safety of volunteers’ personal vehicles (NCSL Survey, 2012). Perhaps the DAV’s greatest limitation is that most of its vehicles are not wheelchair-accessible, and its volunteer drivers are not authorized to lift or provide medical services to any rider; thus, its services cannot be used by many veterans who have severe mobility impairments.18 State Roles Federal and volunteer driver programs are vital in helping veterans get where they want to go, but they cannot meet all veterans’ transportation needs. States also play an essential role in facilitating veterans’ access to transportation mobility and are an integral part of the veterans’ transportation network. By providing needed leadership and programs, states can help fill the gaps in veterans’ transportation services, and they can do so in a way that meets the unique needs of veterans within their borders. State legislatures, in particular, play a critical role; since 2009, more than 40 legislative measures related to transportation for veterans have been introduced in at least 18 states and Puerto Rico.19 The following section describes the many state-level activities that facilitate access to transportation mobility for all veterans, for all purposes. These include interagency coordination; funding for veterans’ transportation; veterans’ transportation programs; leader- ship for veterans’ transportation activities; exemptions from transportation-related fees, taxes, fares and tolls; and other roles. State Interagency Coordination A growing number of states are working to better coordinate diverse programs across different agencies to help reduce duplication and fragmentation, use public resources more efficiently, and make programs easier to use. States help veterans access transportation through three types of coordination: including veterans’ interests in transportation coor- dination efforts, including transportation stakeholders in coordination efforts related to veterans’ services, and creating interagency task forces to study veterans’ transportation specifically (Figure 1).
  10. 10. National Conference of State Legislatures | 5 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Figure 1. State-Level Interagency Coordination Concerning Veterans’Transportation *Massachusetts’veterans’coordinating council does not include the state transportation agency, but does include the DAV. Source: NCSL, 2012. Transportation Interagency Coordination Efforts that Include Veterans State-level interagency councils in 28 states and the Northern Mariana Islands work to better coordinate transportation services (Figure 2).20 Council membership can include a wide variety of state agencies as well as other transportation and human services stakeholders. As of November 2012, at least 12 councils—in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin—included veterans’ agencies or representatives (see State Profiles for details).21 Vermont’s Public Transit Advisory Council (PTAC) not only represents veterans’ interests among its formal membership, but also has formed a veterans’ transportation working group that includes members from organizations such as the DAV and MHISSION-VT, a jail diversion project for veterans (NCSL Survey, 2012). In addition, one of Idaho’s two councils may soon name the state Division of Veter- ans Services as an ex officio member (NCSL Survey, 2012). Figure 2. State Human Service Transportation Coordinating Councils Includes veterans in transportation coordination efforts Includes transportation in veterans’ services coordination efforts Has had a standalone interagency task force on veterans’transportation No interagency veterans’ transportation coordination Source: NCSL, 2012. State coordinating council created by legislation State coordinating council created by executive order or other authority Voluntary agency cooperation but no legal authority No coordinating council District of Columbia Guam Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands American Samoa District of Columbia Guam Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands American Samoa
  11. 11. National Conference of State Legislatures | 6 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Veterans’Services Interagency Coordination Efforts that Include Transportation Several states have interagency councils that coordinate the breadth of veterans’ services. Some of these councils—in- cluding those in Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and Texas—do not include state transportation agencies in their required membership (although the Massachusetts council does include the DAV).22 In contrast, the membership of the California Interagency Council on Veterans, created in 2011, includes the secretary of business, transportation and housing. New Jersey’s Council on Armed Forces and Veterans’ Affairs was expanded in 2005 to add 12 new members, including four legislators and the commissioner of transportation.23 In addition, as of November 2012, two pending legislative measures in New York would create a state interagency coor- dinating council for veterans with service-connected disabilities. Senate Bill 3594 and Assembly Bill 7260 would estab- lish a council of representatives from 10 state agencies, including the state Department of Transportation. Recognizing that veterans—especially those with service-related disabilities—have unique and complex needs, the legislation requires the council to promote implementation of a comprehensive, statewide program of accessible, coordinated and special- ized services, including transportation options. In addition, the council would disseminate information about available services, conduct ongoing evaluations of needs and direct relevant complaints. Interagency Task Forces on Veterans’Transportation Stand-alone interagency task forces have formed in Colorado, Massachusetts and Oregon to specifically address veter- ans’ transportation concerns. The Colorado Veterans Transportation Task Force was developed in November 2010 to improve communication between veterans’ and non-veterans’ groups, increase transportation access and reduce service duplication.24 Membership includes the state coordinating council; the Denver Regional Mobility and Access Council (DRMAC); the state departments of transportation, labor and employment, and vocational rehabilitation; county Vet- erans Service Officers; and nonprofit organizations. The Massachusetts Veterans Transportation Coalition (MVTC) formed in 2010 as an ad hoc coalition of state agencies, regional transit authorities and veterans’ organizations (NCSL Survey, 2012). The MVTC has developed materials for veterans, including a comprehensive website that lists public and private transportation resources for veterans in the state (see State Profile for details).25 The Oregon Legislative Task Force on Veterans Transportation was cre- ated by Senate Bill 98 in 2009. Members were appointed from the state departments of transportation, employment, human services, military, and veterans’ affairs. Other stakeholders invited to participate included staff of congressional members from Oregon, state legislators, the DAV, transit agencies and other organizations.26 (See case study on page 16.) State Funding for Veterans’Transportation A key state role is to provide needed funds for veterans’ transportation. At least 13 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have dedicated special funds or trust funds for veterans’ services that can be used for transportation purposes (Figure 3; see State Profiles for details). Most of these funds can be used for various veterans’ services, including transportation. In contrast, Idaho’s Veterans Transportation Fund exists solely to give vouchers to veterans in wheelchairs for transportation to medical appointments.27 Similarly, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Veterans Emergency Transportation Fund—appropriated $50,000 each year—pays for veterans’ transportation to VA hospitals for emergency treatment.28 In addition, at least 18 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands fund veterans’ transportation programs through other (or unknown) means such as legislative appropriations or departmental budgets (also see Figure 3 and State Pro- files).29 In 2011, for example, the North Dakota legislature provided $50,000 to purchase vans to transport veterans or their dependents.30 Texas not only has a special fund that awards grants to organizations that serve veterans, but also has a program that offers temporary transportation assistance to veterans to help them obtain or retain employment. Eligible uses include gas cards and bus vouchers. The U.S. Virgin Islands can pay up to $500 for a veteran’s transportation to school for career and technical or academic training.31 “If organizations partner on their trans- portation needs and services, then we can ensure that as many veterans as pos- sible are able to get the rides they need.” —NCSL Survey Respondent
  12. 12. National Conference of State Legislatures | 7 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Figure 3. State Funding for Veterans’Transportation *No data available for American Samoa or Guam. Source: NCSL, 2012. State Veterans’Transportation Programs In many states, local transit agencies or nonprofits such as the DAV provide most of the actual transportation used by veterans. Such programs are limited, however, and may not be able to provide all services veterans may need. Some states have taken a direct role in providing transportation to veterans (see State Profiles for details). • Michigan, Minnesota and Oklahoma provide transportation for certain trips to or from state veterans’ homes.32 • The Maryland Commitment to Veterans Program—within the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH)—contracts with local transportation providers to provide curb-to-curb services for veterans who have no other way to get to behavioral health appointments. Coordinators within DHMH schedule trips and coordi- nate services (NCSL Survey, 2012). • A state program in New Jersey, funded by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMAVA), has coordinators in each county who arrange free rides for veterans to medical appointments, the VA regional office and local veterans service offices in most counties. According to DMAVA, the program “originated due to the distance many N.J. veterans had to travel to get to a VA facility for medical care.”33 • The New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services receives about $125,000 each year to provide transportation services to veterans and their families under a program in which volunteer drivers use their personal vehicles. The program, which serves veterans in rural areas and veterans’ family members who are not otherwise served by VA transportation programs, shares the VA’s dispatch system in order to better determine which program can best serve each veteran who calls (NCSL Survey, 2012). • North Dakota provides five vans on scheduled routes to the VA hospital in Fargo. The free service is paid for in part by the state Veterans’ Postwar Trust Fund.34 • The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is working with federal and state veterans’ agencies to help veterans access health care by providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles to VA facilities and counties. Local transit agencies train volunteer drivers, and ODOT conducts preventive maintenance on the vehicles for one year (NCSL Survey, 2012; see case study on page 16 and State Profile). • West Virginia state law requires the director of the state Department of Veterans Assistance to provide volunteers to transport veterans to veterans’ hospitals from their homes or from local veterans’ affairs offices. Volunteers are to be paid a per diem of $75 for expenses. The state’s FY 2013 budget bill allocated $625,000 to the department for veterans’ transportation.35 Special or trust funds support veterans’transportation Other or unknown means of funding veterans’transportation District of Columbia Guam* Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands American Samoa*
  13. 13. National Conference of State Legislatures | 8 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation State Leadership for Veterans’Transportation Activities Survey data indicated several other areas where states are leading the way to help veterans access transportation. Because many of these efforts are in their infancy, their effectiveness is not yet known. However, survey respondents noted the importance of these first steps in improving communication and collaboration, which may eventually lead to more transportation options for veterans in their communities (see also pages 19 and 20). Coordinating Federally Funded Projects Some states have taken the lead in coordinating applications for federal funding (Figure 4). To date, the federal Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) has awarded grants to projects in 13 states, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands that will coordinate transportation statewide to make projects more efficient and broaden their scope. Some of these projects will create a single phone number and website to allow any veteran in the state to find transportation choices with one call or one click. Others bring together several smaller projects to achieve statewide coverage. In 2011 and 2012, for example, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Veterans Trans- portation Task Force coordinated four sub-grantees’ applications. The resulting grant awards will help veterans schedule rides across multiple providers, support complementary one-call/one-click centers in various regions, and coordinate local and statewide resources to improve information about transportation options for veterans. CDOT also was the designated recipient for all grants.36 In addition, 11 states were awarded funds for a local or regional project under state leadership. In Idaho, Illinois, Mary- land, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Washington, the state DOT or transit authority was the designated recipient of funds for at least one regional or local project.37 The Washington State Depart- ment of Transportation (WSDOT) coordinated and submitted VTCLI applications on behalf of area nonprofits in both 2011 and 2012. WSDOT’s efforts to coordinate VTCLI funds have reportedly been effective in making all grantees aware of projects in other areas of the state. WSDOT also has created a forum in which grantees are “encouraged (and ex- pected) to work together to minimize overlap of services among veterans in multiple areas throughout the state” (NCSL Survey, 2012). In addition, New Mexico’s DOT and Department of Veterans’ Services filed a joint application,38 and in Massachusetts, the statewide MVTC supported a joint VTCLI application in 2011 that was awarded to the Montachu- sett Regional Transit Authority and its partners (NCSL Survey, 2012). Figure 4. 2011 and 2012 Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) Grant Awards Source: Federal Transit Administration, 2011 and 2012. Statewide projects State leadership for local/ regional project Local/regional projects only No VTCLI award District of Columbia Guam Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands American Samoa
  14. 14. National Conference of State Legislatures | 9 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Encouraging or Requiring Veteran Participation in Transportation Planning Transportation planning occurs at all levels of government. States, regions and localities determine transportation investment priorities through struc- tured planning processes that involve various stakeholders in identifying, selecting and approving projects.These plans must comply with federal and state requirements. In addition, any agency that wishes to be eligible for certain FTA grant funding must work with other public, private and non- profit transportation and human services providers to develop a separate “locally developed, coordinated public transit-human services transporta- tion plan.”39 This plan must not only identify the transportation needs of individuals with disabilities, older adults and people with low incomes, but also strategies and services to meet those needs. Some states serve as a “pass-through” to administer FTA funds and implement other rules and requirements. At least 10 states encourage or require inclusion of veterans’ interests in transportation planning activities (see State Profiles for details); all details below are from the 2012 NCSL survey data. • Florida requires each county’s local coordinating board to include a veterans’ representative. These boards work with planning agencies and transportation coordinators to develop service plans for transportation disadvantaged populations.40 • Although not required, the Illinois and Louisiana departments of transportation formally invite veterans’ transpor- tation providers to participate in ongoing regional coordination activities. • The Kansas Department of Transportation has begun to seek input from veterans’ organizations. Specific efforts include studies for intercity bus service planning and rural regional public transportation planning. • Beginning in FY 2013, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will require inclusion of veterans’ groups in the local coordinated planning process. • The Maryland Department of Transportation plans to emphasize outreach to veterans’ groups in its next solicitation for FTA grant applications. It also encourages veterans’ organizations to participate on regional coordinating bodies. • Montana’s Department of Transportation and Department of Health and Human Services plan to have veteran rep- resentation on all local transit advisory committees. The two agencies have called for regional coordination meetings across the state after several statewide transit summits in which the DAV participated. They also are working closely with the federal VA’s Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) and encouraging its inclusion in local and regional coordination efforts. • The Ohio Department of Transportation invites the Department of Veterans Services to quarterly mobility manager roundtables and encourages mobility managers to include county-level veteran services coordinators in regional coordination planning activities. • As of November 2012, the Washington Department of Transportation was conducting the state’s first statewide human service transportation coordinated plan. The effort will specifically include consideration of veterans’ transportation needs. • The West Virginia Department of Transportation invites the federal VA to participate in its coordination planning activities. “Veteran involvement is integral to good transportation planning. With- out [it], there is a risk of making poor decisions, or decisions that have unin- tended negative consequences … Vet- eran involvement should be more than an agency requirement and more than a means of fulfilling a statutory obliga- tion; meaningful veteran participation is central to ensuring the concerns … [of veterans] and their dependents are iden- tified and addressed in … the policies, programs and projects being proposed in their communities.” —NCSL Survey Respondent “[I]t is always good practice to listen to suggestions from individuals [who] use the services provided, along with the in- dividuals and organizations directly pro- viding these services.” —NCSL Survey Respondent
  15. 15. National Conference of State Legislatures | 10 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Transportation Studies and Reports Involving Veterans Several states have initiated studies to assess and identify veterans’ transportation needs. • North Dakota’s Department of Transportation and Department of Veterans Affairs are working together on a trans- portation coordination pilot project focused on veterans. Participants include state and county veterans’ representa- tives as well as public and private transportation providers (NCSL Survey, 2012). • The Ohio Department of Transportation is conducting the “Ohio Mobility Study” on resources, potential partici- pants and recommendations for a state-level human service transportation coordinating council. The state Depart- ment of Veterans Services was invited to and attended a recent “Mobility Summit” to offer input before the study’s recommendations were finalized (NCSL Survey, 2012). • The Oregon Department of Transportation is conducting a statewide study of transportation coordination activities and potential measurable outcomes. The state Department of Veterans’ Affairs is on the study’s steering committee (NCSL Survey, 2012). • The Center for Rural Pennsylvania (a bicameral, bipartisan legislative agency) released a study in January 2012 that identified the medical transportation needs of veterans in rural areas of the state and offered recommendations.41 Building Partnerships The first step toward coordination is to form relationships among stake- holders. Many states have provided strong leadership to encourage mean- ingful partnerships among transportation and veterans’ organizations— across public and private sectors and at all levels of government. • The Colorado Veterans Transportation Task Force, established in 2010, works to increase transportation options for veterans in the state by first improving communication between veterans’ and non-veterans’ groups.42 The task force has reportedly been effective in facilitating conversations between transit agencies and vet- erans’ organizations (NCSL Survey, 2012). • The Illinois Department of Transportation is seeking a representative from the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be a point of contact for transportation coordinators throughout the state. The intent is to bridge a communica- tion gap between transportation coordinators and veterans’ organizations (NCSL Survey, 2012). • The representative of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs who serves on the state coordinating council is invited to participate in the state Department of Transportation’s biannual review of applications for FTA grants, to ensure that veterans’ transportation needs are considered in the selec- tion process (NCSL Survey, 2012). • Members of the Massachusetts Veterans Transportation Coalition have met with two VA hospitals to identify opportunities for better collaboration and coordination with local transportation providers. The coalition also has made presentations at regional and statewide meetings of veterans service officers (NCSL Survey, 2012). • Also in Massachusetts, the state’s Human Services Transportation (HST) Office and Department of Veterans Services (DVS) are helping to lead a transportation initiative under the federal VA’s New England Healthcare System. The six-state system’s strategic plan includes improving veterans’ medical transportation through integration of the region’s eight large VA medical centers into a single network and better coordination with transportation providers and state agencies. Among other activities, HST and DVS are working with regional and local providers across New England to develop standardized performance measures (NCSL Survey, 2012).43 “[C]oordination is sometimes as simple as inviting a group of organizations that serve special needs populations to the table.” —NCSL Survey Respondent “Partnerships between many diverse or- ganizations are critical for facilitating access to transportation options for vet- erans, their families and spouses.” —NCSL Survey Respondent
  16. 16. National Conference of State Legislatures | 11 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation • In Mississippi and Virginia, state-level transportation and veterans’ agencies have started to actively work together concerning veterans’ transportation options (NCSL Survey, 2012). • The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) has worked to develop relationships with other state agencies, including the state Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Human Services. Under NDDOT leadership, stakeholders—including state and county veterans’ representatives and public and private transportation service providers—have come together to implement a transportation coordination pilot project that focuses on veterans (NCSL Survey, 2012). • Oregon House Bill 2403, enacted by the legislature in 2011, directs various state agencies—including the Depart- ment of Transportation—to partner with the Oregon Military Department to provide reintegration services for veterans. • The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has provided information to regional transportation planning agencies about veterans service officers in each of the state’s 254 counties. TxDOT also hosted a conference in April 2012 that featured a panel discussion with the federal VA and transportation providers from across the state about best practices in serving veterans (NCSL Survey, 2012). • To promote ongoing dialogue, starting in early 2012, the Washington State Department of Transportation began facilitating monthly statewide meetings of a Veterans Transportation Steering Committee. The committee discusses VTCLI project development and implementation, including broader issues and challenges related to veterans’ trans- portation. Participants include representatives from the state Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal VA, trans- portation providers, nonprofit organizations and human services agencies (NCSL Survey, 2012). Exemptions from Transportation-Related Fees, Taxes, Fares and Tolls Many states waive or reduce certain vehicle-related fees and taxes for eligible veterans. These include driver’s license fees; vehicle registration charges; vehicle taxes; fees for special veterans’ license plates; and fees for disability placards. Some states also ensure free or reduced transit fares or waive tolls. Eligibility rules vary, but may include veterans with qualify- ing disabilities, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients or former prisoners of war. In at least 17 states, a surviving spouse who has not remarried can receive one or more of these veterans’ benefits (Figure 5); Nevada allows transfer of a tax exemption to a spouse only during the veteran’s lifetime. Such exemptions typically are authorized in state law (see State Profiles for more details and statutory citations). Figure 5. Surviving Spouses Eligible for Certain Veterans’Transportation Benefits *No data available for American Samoa, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Source: NCSL, 2012. Surviving spouses eligible for certain veterans’benefits related to transportation fees or taxes District of Columbia Guam* Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands* American Samoa*
  17. 17. National Conference of State Legislatures | 12 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Driver’s License Fees At least seven states—Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Texas—exempt certain veterans from paying a driver’s license fee. In addition, Kentucky considered but did not enact legislation in 2012 to exempt driver’s licenses and identification cards with a veterans’ designation from initial and renewal fees.44 Vehicle Registration Fees or Taxes At least 32 states waive or reduce vehicle registration fees or taxes for certain veterans (Figure 6). Utah state law also ex- empts Purple Heart recipients from fees for driver education and uninsured motorist identification, as well as from local option highway construction and transportation corridor preservation fees that apply at the time of vehicle registration. Figure 6. Vehicle Registration Fees or Taxes Waived or Reduced for Veterans *No data available for American Samoa, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Source: NCSL, 2012. License Plate and Disability Placard Fees At least 30 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands issue specialty license plates to veterans for a reduced or no fee (Figure 7).45 Most of these plates have a special distinction such as “disabled veteran” or “Congressional Medal of Honor,” and ap- plicants must meet specific eligibility criteria. In Florida, veterans pay a fee but not the applicable taxes for certain license plates. Florida, Louisiana and Maine also offer disability placards to qualifying veterans at a reduced or no charge.46 Figure 7. License Plate Fees Waived or Reduced for Veterans *No data available for American Samoa or Guam. Source: NCSL, 2012. Waives or reduces vehicle registration fees or taxes for elegible veterans Waives or reduces license plate fees for elegible veterans District of Columbia Guam* Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands* American Samoa* District of Columbia Guam* Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands American Samoa*
  18. 18. National Conference of State Legislatures | 13 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Vehicle Taxes Atleast17stateswaiveorreduceoneormorevehicletaxesforeligibleveterans(Figure8).NorthCarolinalawexemptscertain veteran-owned vehicles from taxation. Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington offer veterans exemptions from state ad valorem, sales or excise taxes on vehicles. Arkansas, Connecticut and New Mexico waive or reduce vehicle property taxes, and Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee waive a vehicle privilege tax. In Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana and Ohio, certain veterans are exempt from paying vehicle license taxes. California waivesitsvehiclelicensefee,countedherebecauseitwasestablishedin1935specificallyinlieuofapropertytaxonvehicles.47 Figure 8. Vehicle Taxes Waived or Reduced for Veterans *No data available for American Samoa, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Source: NCSL, 2012. Transit Fares At least six states and Puerto Rico have encouraged free or reduced public transit fares for veterans. In Alaska, Illinois, Washington and Puerto Rico, state agencies themselves provide discounted or free transit passes. In California and Min- nesota, state law requires selected transit agencies to provide reduced or free fares to veterans with qualifying disabilities. Idaho allows, but does not require, free transit for certain veterans. In addition, as of November 2012, bills pending in the Massachusetts and New York legislatures would authorize free or reduced transit fares for veterans under certain circumstances. South Carolina’s legislature also considered, but did not enact, a related bill in its 2012 session.48 Tolls Florida, New York and Puerto Rico have waived tolls for some veterans. Florida law allows veterans who have disabili- ties that impair their ability to deposit coins in toll baskets to pass free through all toll gates. In New York, veterans with qualifying disabilities can enroll in the New York Thruway Authority’s Disabled Veteran Non-Revenue E-ZPass program. The program allows free, unlimited travel on the Thruway system when the veteran is traveling in an eligible vehicle.49 As a result of Senate Bill 1639, enacted in 2011, Puerto Rico exempts Purple Heart recipients from paying highway tolls on Purple Heart Day, August 7. In addition, Texas law allows, but does not require, toll entities to offer toll discounts to certain veterans, and allows the Legislature to defray the cost.50 As of November 2012, the New Jersey and New York legislatures also were considering relevant bills. New Jersey’s Assembly Bill 774 would waive E-ZPass service charges for veterans,51 and New York’s Assembly Bill 6006 would eliminate tolls on the New York State Thruway for vehicles transporting veterans to VA hospitals and other veterans’ health care facilities. Waives or reduces vehicle taxes for elegible veterans District of Columbia Guam* Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands* American Samoa*
  19. 19. National Conference of State Legislatures | 14 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Special Privileges Several states offer other special privileges to qualifying veterans or to vehicles displaying certain veterans’ specialty li- cense plates. Parking Privileges At least 14 states—Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin—provide certain veterans with special parking privi- leges.52 In some cases, parking privileges for people who have disability placards are made available to veterans who otherwise might not qualify. In other cases, vehicles displaying select veterans’ specialty license plates are given privileges such as extended time limits on parking meters. These privileges typically apply only when the vehicles are being used by, or are transporting, the qualifying veteran. Other Privileges In Missouri, veterans with proof of permanent disability from the VA do not have to submit a new physician’s statement when renewing disabled license plates or placards.53 Similarly, in Texas, a person with disabled veteran specialty license plates can receive a disabled parking placard without additional documentation. Georgia state statute requires that, upon request, employees at a full-service/self-service gas station must dispense fuel from the self-service pump into vehicles with disabled veteran license tags, at the self-service price.54 Other State Roles States have demonstrated marked creativity and variety in their policies and programs that address veterans’ transporta- tion needs. Additional state innovations include the following. • Hawaii and Oregon have considered bringing health care to veterans, rather than bringing veterans to health care, thereby reducing the need to arrange public or private transportation to needed services. Hawaii’s Office of Veterans’ Services offers a unique program that provides at-home counseling for veterans (NCSL Survey, 2012). In its final re- port to the legislature, the Oregon Legislative Task Force on Veterans’ Transportation recommended that the federal VA’s Veterans Health Administration drastically expand its efforts to deliver health services through community- based outpatient clinics, mobile clinics and technology to reduce veterans’ travel needs.55 • Illinois’ first-of-its-kind Veterans Care Program is intended to provide comprehensive, affordable health care to uninsured Illinois veterans. Covered services include emergency medical transportation.56 • New York legislation enacted in 2011 requires the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA) and Divi- sion of Veterans Affairs to inform returning combat veterans about accident prevention courses that are approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles.57 According to a DMNA resource, “… the risk of death from a motor vehicle traffic accident is much higher during the first five years after deployment to a combat zone… [F]or the veterans of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan the risk of a post-deployment motor vehicle accident is seventy-five percent greater than for the rest of the population…”58 Completion of a course can qualify a driver for lower motor vehicle insurance premiums and reduced points related to traffic tickets. • In 2009, the Ohio legislature considered, but did not enact, House Bill 151, which would have required the state Department of Transportation to install signs on state highways to indicate the location of VA medical facilities. • Oregon’s legislature adopted House Joint Memorial 6 in 2011, urging Congress to require the federal VA to pay veterans’ transportation costs when a veteran who first seeks emergency care at a non-VA hospital is transported to a VA facility.
  20. 20. National Conference of State Legislatures | 15 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation • As of November 2012, the Rhode Island legislature was considering House Bill 7190, which would create a coor- dinator position within the state Division of Veterans Affairs to help veterans with transportation to the VA hospital in Providence. • Under Puerto Rico law, a centralized Veterans Advocate’s Office—attached to the office of the governor—is respon- sible for handling the problems, needs and claims of Puerto Rican veterans in several areas, including transporta- tion.59 In 2012, adoption of Senate Joint Resolution 1013 reassigned $25,000 to the Veterans Advocate’s Office to provide matching funds to purchase buses for veterans’ transportation.
  21. 21. National Conference of State Legislatures | 16 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Case Studies This section offers in-depth case studies of three states to highlight statewide initiatives that are improving access to transportation for veterans across the nation. Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin were selected for further analysis to demon- strate the variety of state roles in coordinating and facilitating transportation for veterans, as well as diversity in location, size, population and political context. Oregon Oregon’s unique approach to coordinating transportation services for veterans is characterized by state leadership and collaboration, facilitated by a legislatively formed task force. The Governor’s Task Force on Veterans’ Services, created in 2008, found that a lack of transportation to VA medical appointments was a major barrier for veterans to receive their benefits, and recommended that a special task force be initiated to focus on veterans’ transportation. The legislature enacted Senate Bill 98 in 2009, which created the Legislative Task Force on Veterans’ Transportation. The task force included members from the departments of transportation, employment, human services, military and veterans’ affairs. Other stakeholders invited to participate included state legislators, staff of congressional members from Oregon, the DAV, transit agencies and other organizations.60 Survey respondents stressed the importance of having the right people and organizations represented in the task force; it reportedly took time to identify the correct stakeholders in the early stages, but was well worth the effort when progress was made (NCSL Survey, 2012). The task force met monthly and submitted its final report to the legislature in October 2010. The report included 17 findings and 15 recommendations that mainly addressed veterans who would forego their earned VA health benefits without transportation to medical appointments. Identified challenges included a lack of funds for vehicle operating expenses, mobility management activities and outreach to veterans. The task force found that transit services were avail- able to veterans in nearly every county, but veterans’ organizations were not always aware of them—even though they had been approached to participate in local transportation planning. The report offered creative suggestions for leverag- ing existing resources and financing an efficient medical transportation system for veterans with existing federal funds.61 Although Oregon has no formal human service transportation coordinating council, survey respondents reported that the task force was influential in developing relationships among state agencies that may help address veterans’ transpor- tation needs. For example, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is now conducting a statewide study of coordination activities and measurable outcomes; the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) serves on the study’s steering committee. The task force also effectively attracted the attention of state leaders to veterans’ transportation is- sues. One result is that the DVA has now encouraged regional veterans’ organizations to participate in local coordinated transportation planning, with better results than earlier invitations from local agencies (NCSL Survey, 2012). Oregon has taken strides to remedy an issue identified by the task force: the lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the DAV volunteer transportation network. The ODOT Public Transit Division now is working with both federal and state veterans’ agencies to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles to VA facilities and counties. Local transit agencies train volunteer drivers, and ODOT conducts preventive maintenance on the vehicles for one year so facilities have time to include vehicle operating costs in their budgets. The first wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the VA transportation fleet, they will provide a new level of effective service for medical transportation. The work of the task force on this issue also contributed to a legislative appropriation of approximately $100,000 in the 2011−13 state budget for one-time assis- tance to wheelchair-bound veterans who need medical transportation. The funds, however, eventually were withdrawn due to budget constraints (NCSL Survey, 2012). Other activities in Oregon include efforts funded by both the state and federal governments to improve transportation for veterans through regional coordination networks. Eight existing transportation brokerages and call centers are being expanded to include resources for veterans such as trip planning and information and referral services. These projects were funded by mobility management grants through ODOT and the federal VTCLI program (NCSL Survey, 2012; see also page 3).
  22. 22. National Conference of State Legislatures | 17 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Texas The Texas approach to veterans’ transportation has been to provide strong state leadership to strengthen local efforts. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) leads the state’s regional coordinated transportation planning pro- cess, in which it encourages inclusion of veterans’ interests. Meanwhile, other state agencies administer state funds to local and nonprofit transportation providers, with active involvement from the Legislature. TxDOT has worked to build partnerships among transportation agencies and veterans’ organizations at all levels of gov- ernment, not only to raise awareness about veterans’ transportation issues, but also to encourage participation of veterans and their families in transportation planning. Texas has no state-level human service transportation coordinating coun- cil, but TxDOT’s Public Transportation Division provides funding and technical assistance to regional coordination efforts, including offering valuable information about veterans’ transportation concerns. For example, TxDOT hosted a conference in April 2012 that featured a panel discussion with the federal VA and transportation providers from across the state about best practices in serving veterans. TxDOT also provided information to regional transportation planning agencies about veterans service officers in each of the state’s 254 counties, and has given other customized technical as- sistance to local entities that seek to better serve veterans (NCSL Survey, 2012). Many efforts are under way on the local and regional levels, likely as a result of the statewide initiatives. TxDOT received a federal VTCLI grant award in 2012 of $231,000 to create a one-call/one-click center for veterans in a 14-county area in East Texas. The East Texas planning region also hosted a “basic training” day to familiarize veterans with public transit options both within and outside the region. Some regions are addressing veterans’ transportation in needs assessments and regional plans, and veterans’ organizations participate on some regional steering committees. In many of the rural planning regions, transportation providers have contracted with VA medical facilities to coordinate transportation ser- vices where service gaps once existed. Survey respondents noted that ridership on these rural routes seems to be increas- ing (NCSL Survey, 2012). The Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) provides administrative support to the Texas Coordinating Council for Veterans Services (TCCVS), established by the Legislature in 2011. The TCCVS aims to bring together state agencies that pro- vide direct services to veterans and their families in order to most effectively and efficiently coordinate their efforts. It also makes biennial reports to the Legislature detailing its work and any recommendations.62 TxDOT is not represented on the council, according to survey respondents, because transportation resources and programs are not generally provided directly to veterans or their families at the state level. The council has explored transportation, but mainly in relation to other issues such as access to health care or housing. The council also has worked to identify the efforts of local nonprofit or service organizations to enhance transportation options for veterans (NCSL Survey, 2012). The TVC also administers the Fund for Veterans’ Assistance (FVA). The fund awards grants to eligible charitable orga- nizations, local government agencies and veterans service organizations that provide direct assistance—including trans- portation services—to Texas veterans and their families.63 FVA is primarily funded by Veterans Cash scratch-off lottery tickets, a program created by the Legislature in 2009 to fund veterans’ programs; the proceeds provide more than $7 mil- lion a year, although recent reports indicate waning sales.64 Other revenue sources include donations, vehicle registration fees, the State Employee Charitable Campaign and the Housing Trust Fund.65 Since 2009, the TVC has awarded nearly $700,000 from the FVA to nonprofit organizations and counties to provide transportation assistance to veterans and their families. This commitment to funding local services reflects the Texas approach, as stated by a survey respondent, that “…[veterans’] transportation is best coordinated at the local level by municipal and county level governments as well as nonprofit and service organizations … Providing a revenue stream for the [FVA] has been very effective in allowing local programs to grow and thrive.” The respondent further called the FVA “the most significant activity in which the [TVC] participates directly regarding the transportation of veterans” (NCSL Survey, 2012). In addition, the TVC also manages the state Transportation Support Services program, which provides temporary trans- portation assistance directly to veterans to help them obtain or retain employment. Eligible uses include gas cards, bus vouchers and other appropriate pre-purchase transportation costs.66
  23. 23. National Conference of State Legislatures | 18 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Wisconsin Wisconsin’s efforts to facilitate veterans’ transportation are distinguished by ongoing transportation coordination among state, local and tribal agencies that includes veterans’ interests as well as substantial state funding for services in under- served areas. The state human service transportation coordinating council, known as the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Trans- portation Coordination (ICTC), was authorized by a governor’s initiative in 2005. Its members include representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA), along with the state departments of transportation, health services and workforce development and the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.67 Wisconsin’s coordina- tion model focuses on strengthening the ICTC as the lead entity for statewide coordination, while also establishing re- gional coordination councils and providing incentives for local coordinating efforts and inter-council cooperation.68 The ICTC’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) advises the council on statewide transportation needs and coordination opportunities and helps educate the public. SAC membership includes representatives of transportation users, advocacy organizations, tribes, service providers and other partners, including the County Veterans Service Officers Association and the DAV of Wisconsin.69 Wisconsin also provides substantial state funding for veterans’ transportation. The WDVA operates the Veterans Trust Fund, the state’s primary means of supporting veterans’ services, including transportation. Each year, $100,000 from the fund is allocated to the DAV for transporting veterans to medical facilities;70 the DAV operates 36 vans that serve more than 23,000 veterans annually. To help counties not served by the DAV, the WDVA awards grants from the fund to develop, maintain and expand transportation services for veterans. These “County Transportation Services Grants,” intended to be a partial reimbursement of county expenses, may be used for capital and operating expenses or to support multi-county cooperative transportation services.71 Survey respondents noted that these grants have worked well to meet veterans’ transportation needs in underserved areas. In the FY 2011−13 state budget, the Legislature approved a one- time transfer of $5 million from the general fund to keep the Veterans Trust Fund solvent—the first such transfer since 1988 and the 10th since the fund’s origin in 1961.72 The WDVA also helps veterans through the Assistance to Needy Veterans grant program. The program provides up to $7,500 each to veterans and their families who are in financial need and have exhausted all other sources of aid.73 For families and dependents, eligible “economic emergencies” to qualify for the program include failure of the sole means of transportation.74 Funds can be used for various purposes, including essential travel.75 In addition, the long-standing Wisconsin Council on Veterans Programs advises the Board of Veterans Affairs and the WDVA on solutions and policy alternatives relating to veterans’ problems. Members include more than 25 veterans’ organizations, including the DAV, which provides transportation services. The council must submit a biennial report to the Legislature that summarizes activities and membership of the organizations on the council.76 It is unknown, however, whether the council has addressed transportation issues (NCSL Survey, 2012).
  24. 24. National Conference of State Legislatures | 19 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead States have made considerable progress in recent years to help veterans gain access to transportation. Challenges remain, however, especially as the veteran population continues to grow. How each state meets these challenges will be shaped by its model of coordination and its approach to service delivery and providing veterans’ benefits. The following section explores what survey respondents had to say about successes, challenges and next steps in ensuring transportation for veterans. Successes When asked what had worked well in each state, survey respondents rarely were able to provide data showing measur- ably increased transportation for veterans. Respondents instead generally referred to interagency coordination efforts, reflecting a general notion that simple steps toward coordination—such as developing lines of communication between agencies—can not only improve services, but are beneficial in their own right. Table 1 outlines lessons learned from sur- vey respondents about interagency coordination efforts as well as other tips about facilitating transportation for veterans. Task Forces and Coordinating Councils Stakeholders noted that interagency task forces and coordinating councils have been powerful tools to build partnerships that could enhance trans- portation options for veterans. Oregon’s time-limited task force, for exam- ple, was influential in developing relationships between state agencies that Table 1. Lessons Learned from NCSL Veterans’Transportation Survey Respondents What to Do  Target veterans in outreach materials, and say “veteran” whenever possible. Veterans’ transportation needs may not differ from those of other targeted populations, but it helps to use language that veterans’ groups are more likely to recognize.  Identify veterans specifically when collecting ridership data. Baseline data is strongly needed in order to evaluate efforts.  Work hard to understand the cultures of organizations you work with. Learn their acronyms and terms, familiarize yourself with their processes and get to know their missions.  Have the right people at the table. Include those who can help spread the word. It may take extra effort to identify those people. You may need to start small, then build up from there.  Involve people at the community or “grassroots” level, where they are most directly affected by transpor- tation decisions and want to see a change.  If you find a general mistrust of government in your state, it may work better to use nonprofit groups or local agencies rather than a state agency to lead coordination and outreach efforts.  In some contexts, it may help to have the state veterans’ agency contact regional and local veterans’ of- fices to encourage their involvement in transportation planning.  Keep peer-to-peer resources in mind. Veterans are a tight-knit group. What Not to Do  When reaching out to other organizations or agencies, don’t just send a written invitation. A face is needed, as well as some persistence in identifying the correct parties.  Don’t hesitate to communicate with other agencies. You may need each other to be successful.  Focus on solutions. Talking only about failed past strategies is not very helpful.  Don’t ask for more money without showing the benefits of your services.  Don’t make assumptions that others know about your agency and the services you provide.  Don’t assume that public transportation is insufficient to provide for veterans’ specialized transportation needs. Source: NCSL Survey, 2012. “Coordination and communication have been the foundation to build upon for expanding and enhancing transporta- tion mobility options for veterans, their families and spouses.” —NCSL Survey Respondent
  25. 25. National Conference of State Legislatures | 20 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation already are being used to address veterans’ transportation needs (see case study on page 16). More permanent, formally structured councils—even in states where veterans have not yet been included—also were identified as potential assets. “Development of the state coordinating council and regional coordinating councils,” said one respondent, “… has set a platform for the development of coordinated transportation services [that] could benefit veterans.” Other Partnerships Other types of partnerships among diverse organizations—regardless of origin or formality—were identified throughout the surveys as critical to facilitating access to transportation options for veterans and their families. Many respondents mentioned partnerships that had grown from the federal VTCLI grant program, which provided incentives for veterans’ and transportation agencies to work together. State leadership around relationship-building and involving veterans in transportation planning also have been helpful (see examples on pages 9 to 11). Success with engaging veterans in trans- portation efforts, however, has varied from state to state. Challenges Survey respondents identified a wide variety of challenges and barriers to effectively facilitating transportation for vet- erans. Insufficient Data One significant challenge in providing transportation for veterans is a lack of real data that quantifies local veterans’ needs, baseline levels of service or subsequent improvements. Although some states have successfully carried out needs assessments or recorded the number of trips taken with volunteer drivers, these figures often are too limited to determine whether veterans’ access to transportation has improved. States that have not yet begun a statewide veterans’ transportation project can work to conduct meaningful needs assessments and establish baseline data against which they can measure their progress. Otherwise, states cannot know if their efforts are really working. States also can identify veterans as a specific type of transportation user when gathering ridership data on both fixed-route and demand-response paratransit services. Good data can support efforts to identify and pursue best practices, and showing early benefits also can encourage additional buy-in for coordination efforts and other new programs. Cultural Differences Cultural differences and ineffective communication among agencies were seen as a significant barrier to collaboration in many states. Military service groups and public transportation agencies operate in different ways, with different terminology. Respondents from states that have been more suc- cessful at coordination stressed the need to learn about the cultures and ways of the agencies that you are trying to work with. “As a non-veterans’ organization,” said a survey respondent, “we work hard to understand the culture of the veterans’ organizations we work with. This includes learning their acronyms/terms, understanding their processes and understanding their mission.” If transportation professionals have rarely collaborated with or conducted outreach to veterans’ organizations, it may take more time to develop relationships. Other respondents said that it was very difficult to reach high-level officials in certain organizations, or that transportation providers do not always perceive veterans’ groups as interested in working together. Nevertheless, having the right people at the table was identified as a key to successful collaboration, even if more time and effort are required. “Unfortunately, I do not yet have the statistical data needed to show success. What I can show is excellent progress.” —NCSL Survey Respondent “There is a military language for trans- portation and a public and human ser- vices transportation language. Both are specific and complex so the participants need translators at first [and] need to learn a new language.” —NCSL Survey Respondent
  26. 26. National Conference of State Legislatures | 21 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Low Awareness of Other Agencies and Programs Many survey respondents noted that a lack of awareness of other agencies and their programs had presented a challenge. Transportation providers often do not know what resources are available through federal or state veterans’ programs and vice versa. One important “what not to do” lesson was not to assume that others know about your agency and the services you provide. “We have found out [that] no matter how long a system has [existed]…” said a survey respondent, “somebody still doesn’t know [about it]… Outreach and education [are] a continuing necessity in the transit business. Your system can be the best kept secret.” Some respondents expressed that, if state agencies are not made aware of fed- erally funded projects in their states under other jurisdictions, it is more difficult for them to pool resources and lend assistance. In addition, veterans’ agencies often do not consider public transit an option because they do not understand its benefits for veterans. “Outreach efforts are often stalled due to a long-held belief that veterans’ transportation needs are too spe- cialized for public transportation providers to accommodate—a mindset that endures despite a long, rich history of the wide variety of specialized transportation services provided by public operators,” said another respondent. “As a result, despite the growth of available public transportation services, agencies assisting veterans with their transportation needs are still reluctant to use a public option.” Reaching out to veterans’ groups with targeted language they are more likely to recognize can help improve their awareness of available transportation services (see Table 1). Mistrust of Government In some states, mistrust of government generally may present a challenge; respondents noted that consistent outreach can help. “I think the outreach processes that have taken place lately are helping to break down those barriers, but it is a slow process,” said a survey respondent. “There is not a history of this kind of outreach to these groups, but hopefully they will begin to see the benefit of organization and coordination, especially around transportation.” Another respon- dent noted that having a nonprofit organization rather than a state agency lead coordination and outreach efforts had been helpful. Others said that starting with a small group of stakeholders or at the local level—where people are most directly affected by transportation decisions—had been effective in getting efforts under way. Lack of Resources and Services Across the board, survey respondents raised the issue of a lack of funds, personnel and resources. Many community transportation funding sources have dwindled in recent years, along with state budgets. “Additional targeted outreach costs money,” said a survey respondent. “We are not wanting to duplicate services, we want to augment current transit services.” Many respondents stressed the importance of funds for operating expenses—such as vehicles, fuel, drivers and insurance—in addition to the kinds of resource centers supported by the federal VTCLI program. Some veterans’ agen- cies reported that using state funds had been ineffective; instead, they raised funds through veterans’ organizations and groups such as the DAV to support transportation. In addition, a key shortcoming reported in survey responses is limited transportation services in rural areas. A related difficulty, however, is locating and informing the hundreds of thousands of veterans in rural areas about available services. Federal Issues Some survey respondents expressed that certain federal issues related to veterans’ transportation had presented a chal- lenge. One respondent mentioned lack of federal interagency coordination, especially that, “discretionary funds that are announced and awarded through the [federal VA] … create additional silos of funding resources that, perhaps when announced, do not consider existing resources and opportunity for collaboration at the federal level.” Another respon- dent observed that other barriers at the federal level, especially Medicaid rules and the lack of a coordination mandate for Department of Health and Human Services programs, “continue to frustrate coordination of human services trans- portation.” Some respondents also raised concerns about ineffective federal-state communication. “Unlike FTA and the states,” said one respondent, “it appears to be a disconnect between the federal veterans’ funds and the state veterans’ funds.”
  27. 27. National Conference of State Legislatures | 22 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Looking Ahead Many survey respondents noted that successes to date have been limited due to the newness of the federal VTCLI pro- gram and various state efforts. At the same time, respondents used words such as “hopeful” and “promising” to describe the potential for new partnerships and initiatives to yield concrete results for veterans and their families. Respondents perceived a growing awareness of veterans’ transportation needs, and an increasing interest in creating solutions. In par- ticular, many expressed hope that the federal VTCLI program will spark new interest and awareness. One respondent was hopeful that the VTCLI grant program and open forum meetings would elevate enthusiasm for “veterans service organizations to [participate] in planning efforts and to realize the benefits public transportation can provide to veterans and their families.” Expanding awareness and outreach will be key in future years to help veterans gain access to resourc- es. Consistent leadership and funding also will be critical as the work moves forward. “This effort is in its infancy,” said one respondent, “and needs to continue as a priority for years to come, at the federal, state and local [levels].”
  28. 28. National Conference of State Legislatures | 23 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation State Profiles Profiles are provided here for all 50 states and the other jurisdictions that responded to the NCSL Veterans Transporta- tion Survey: the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico. Alabama State Department of Transportation Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) State Veterans’ Agency Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs State Coordinating Council(s) Alabama United We Ride Commission • Established by executive order in 2005 (Alabama Executive Order No. 28); not required to include veterans’ agencies or representatives. State Funding or Programs for Veterans’ Transportation N/A Federal VTCLI Grant Awards N/A Other State Activities to Help Veterans Access Transportation • State law exempts veterans with disabilities from paying license fees and ad valorem taxes on vehicles, only for private vehicles that have been all or partly paid for by the federal VA. Other veterans with qualifying disabilities are exempt from paying privilege or license taxes and registration fees for one personal vehicle. Special dis- abled veterans’ plates are available for a reduced registration fee. Recipients of certain honors and former prisoners of war are exempt from paying vehicle registration fees and, in some cases, ad valorem taxes (Ala. Code §32-6-130, §32-6-250, §40-12-244 and §40-12-254). • Veterans in state veterans’ nursing homes are eligible to receive transportation at no charge to medical-related appointments. The entity contracting with the state to operate the veterans’ home is required to provide the service (NCSL Survey, 2012). Outcomes or Lessons Learned N/A Alaska State Department of Transportation Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) State Veterans’ Agency Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs (under Department of Military & Veterans Affairs) State Coordinating Council(s) Alaska Community and Public Transportation Advisory Board • Authorized by legislation/statute (2012 Alaska Sess. Laws, Chap. 36); not required to include veterans’ agencies or representatives. • The board is continuing the work of the Governor’s Coordinated Transportation Task Force (GCTTF), which was established by executive order (Alaska Execu- tive Orders 243 and 252) and expired in Jan. 2012. The executive order required a member on the GCTTF to be from the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, although the department reportedly declined to participate (NCSL Survey, 2012). A representative from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also partici- pated in the GCTTF ex officio.77 State Funding or Programs for Veterans’ Transportation N/A Federal VTCLI Grant Awards Local/regional only (2011) Other State Activities to Help Veterans Access Transportation • State law exempts veterans with qualifying disabilities from paying vehicle registra- tion taxes and fees (Alaska Stat. §28.10.181).  • The state offers a discounted rate pass on the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway to veterans with service-connected disabilities.78 Outcomes or Lessons Learned Although the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs declined to participate in the GTTCF, the task force included veterans as a population of interest in discus- sions, studies and planning (NCSL Survey, 2012).
  29. 29. National Conference of State Legislatures | 24 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Arizona State Department of Transportation Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) State Veterans’ Agency Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services State Coordinating Council(s) N/A State Funding or Programs for Veterans’ Transportation N/A Federal VTCLI Grant Awards N/A Other State Activities to Help Veterans Access Transportation • Local veterans’ representatives have begun to be involved with local and regional level coordination efforts, but no statewide activities are taking place (NCSL Survey, 2012). • State law exempts veterans with qualifying disabilities from paying vehicle license taxes and registration fees (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §28-5802). Outcomes or Lessons Learned N/A Arkansas State Department of Transportation Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) State Veterans’ Agency Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) State Coordinating Council(s) Arkansas Public Transportation Coordinating Council (APTCC) • Authorized by legislation/statute (Ark. Stat. Ann. §§27-3-101 et seq.); not required to include veterans’ agencies or representatives. State Funding or Programs for Veterans’ Transportation N/A Federal VTCLI Grant Awards N/A Other State Activities to Help Veterans Access Transportation • State law exempts veterans with qualifying disabilities from paying state taxes on personal property; this benefit is retained by minor dependent children and surviv- ing spouses unless they remarry (Ark. Stat. Ann. §26-3-306). The only personal property that is taxed in Arkansas for noncommercial use is motor vehicles (NCSL Survey, 2012). • All veterans and their surviving spouses are eligible for free specialty license plates, with a nominal annual renewal fee capped at $1 (Ark. Stat. Ann. §§27-24-201 et seq.). • A vehicle displaying disabled veteran specialty license plates may park in areas designated for parking only by a person with a disability (Ark. Stat. Ann. §27-15- 316). • Because of this NCSL survey research, ADVA is considering adding a transporta- tion section to its website (NCSL Survey, 2012). Outcomes or Lessons Learned N/A California State Department of Transportation California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) State Veterans’ Agency California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) State Coordinating Council(s) • No human service transportation coordinating council. • The California Interagency Council on Veterans (created in 2011 by California Executive Order B-9-11) includes the secretary of business, housing and transpor- tation. State Funding or Programs for Veterans’ Transportation N/A Federal VTCLI Grant Awards Local/regional only (2011 and 2012)
  30. 30. National Conference of State Legislatures | 25 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Other State Activities to Help Veterans Access Transportation • State law exempts Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and their surviving spouses, former prisoners of war and their surviving spouses, and veterans with qualifying disabilities from paying vehicle registration and license fees for one car, motorcycle or commercial motor vehicle weighing less than 8,001 pounds (Cal. Revenue & Taxation Code §10783, Cal. Vehicle Code §9105). The vehicle license fee was established in 1935 in lieu of a property tax on vehicles.79 • Recipients of certain honors, former prisoners of war, Pearl Harbor survivors and veterans with qualifying disabilities are eligible for free specialty license plates.80 • A vehicle displaying disabled veteran handicap parking license plates is allowed unlimited parking in authorized zones (Cal. Vehicle Code §22511.5).81 • State law requires all transit operators that offer reduced fares to senior citizens to also offer fares at the same reduced rates to veterans with disabilities (Cal. Public Utilities Code §99155). Outcomes or Lessons Learned N/A Colorado State Department of Transportation Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) State Veterans’ Agency Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) State Coordinating Council(s) Colorado Interagency Coordinating Council for Transportation Access and Mobility • Authorized by governor’s initiative in 2005. Then-Governor Owens asked many stakeholders to participate; current members include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.82 • The council also participates in the Colorado Veterans Transportation Task Force (VTTF) (see below).83 State Funding or Programs for Veterans’ Transportation The state Veterans Trust Fund, funded by 1 percent of the state’s tobacco settle- ment revenues, can be used for grants to nonprofit veterans service organizations for various programs, including transportation (Colo. Rev. Stat. §28-5-709). In FY 2012−13, about 37 percent of the grant money ($336,338) was awarded to entities that provide transportation assistance.84 Federal VTCLI Grant Awards CDOT received four 2011 grant awards totaling $164,500 and four 2012 grant awards totaling $1.3 million. CDOT and VTTF helped coordinate applications across sub-grantees, and the awards help bring together smaller projects to achieve statewide coordination and coverage. CDOT was the designated recipient for all grants. Awards were to help veterans schedule rides across multiple providers, support complementary one-call/one-click centers in various regions, and coordinate local and statewide resources to improve information about transportation options for veterans.85 Other State Activities to Help Veterans Access Transportation • The VTTF was initially formed by the state coordinating council and the Denver Regional Mobility and Access Council (DRMAC) in November 2010. Other members include various organizations that work with veterans or with trans- portation access, including the state departments of transportation, labor and employment, and vocational rehabilitation; county Veterans Service Officers; and nonprofit organizations. The VTTF’s mission is “moving veterans where they need to go through effective, coordinated partnerships and linkages with veterans and non-veterans organizations.”86 • The Colorado Association of Transit Agencies (CASTA) invited veterans’ repre- sentatives from across the state to its 2011 spring conference to explain federal reimbursement for veterans’ travel to VA medical facilities (NCSL Survey, 2012). • Veterans are involved not only with the state coordinating council, but also with local coordinating councils in the Denver region, Colorado Springs, Montrose/ Delta counties and Salida (NCSL Survey, 2012).
  31. 31. National Conference of State Legislatures | 26 A Mission to Serve: State Activities to Help Military Veterans Access Transportation Outcomes or Lessons Learned • Involvement of the federal VA with the state coordinating council has been ex- tremely effective in beginning a statewide effort to improve services (NCSL Survey, 2012). • VTTF has accomplished three main goals: providing information to local coordi- nating councils and county veterans service officers and facilitating conversation between them; planning and leadership that resulted in substantial VTCLI fund- ing; and presentations to veterans’ groups about transportation options (NCSL Survey, 2012). • VTTF has worked to help transportation and veterans’ organizations understand each other—including culture, acronyms, terms, processes and mission—which also has helped other stakeholder groups (NCSL Survey, 2012). Connecticut State Department of Transportation Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) State Veterans’ Agency Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs (CTVA) State Coordinating Council(s) N/A State Funding or Programs for Veterans’ Transportation • The state reimburses local and regional boards of education for a portion of eligible students’ transportation to qualifying vocational secondary schools. This applies to students who are veterans with wartime service, regardless of age or whether the veteran lives with a parent or guardian (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §10-97). • State law provides that veterans may, upon application to the commissioner of vet- erans’ affairs, receive transportation at the expense of the state to a veterans’ home or hospital (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §27-108). Federal VTCLI Grant Awards N/A Other State Activities to Help Veterans Access Transportation • State law exempts veterans with qualifying disabilities, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and former prisoners of war from paying vehicle registration fees. Fees also are waived for specialty license plates for veterans with qualifying dis- abilities; this benefit is retained by surviving spouses unless they remarry. Vehicles with disabled veteran license plates may be parked overtime for 24 hours without penalty (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §14-21d, §14-49 and §14-254). • State law exempts veterans who were state residents at the time of induction and who apply within two years of honorable discharge from paying operator’s license and examination fees for one licensing period (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §14-50). • Certain veterans are eligible for a $1,500 exemption for property tax purposes, which can be applied to the automobile tax; they may be eligible for a tax refund if they are leasing a motor vehicle. Veterans below a certain income level or with qualifying disabilities may receive additional tax exemptions. Surviving spouses also may be eligible for this benefit (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§12-81 et seq.).87 • Connecticut is part of the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN)-1 (see Massachusetts). Outcomes or Lessons Learned According to a survey respondent, “Presumably [these activities] are working, as transportation has not been an issue discussed in the Veterans’ Affairs committee or for which legislation has been proposed in any committee in recent years” (NCSL Survey, 2012).

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