Veterans often have very particular transportation needs. During the last few weeks an online public outreach program has been in place “to highlight the transportation needs, challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s veterans, wounded warriors, and military service members and their families.” Comments will be collected through this Friday, June 8 at http://veteransdialogue.ideascale.com.
This web-based outreach invites stakeholders “to engage in a discussion on overcoming barriers, forming strategic partnerships and improving communications to ultimately improve veterans’ and service members’ access to transportation.” The outreach is sponsored by USDOT , Dept. of Defense, Easter Seals and others.
So far, 61 comments have been submitted. A number of stakeholders note that most funding programs provide for capital investments, but typically a more critical need is operating assistance.
USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood notes that
“military families live in suburban and rural communities where long car commutes eat up the family’s gas budget, and public transportation options are limited. The projects funded by this initiative will bridge the transportation gap by helping states and communities build or expand centers that offer information on local transportation options by phone or internet.”
You can hear more from Secretary LaHood in his blog post, “Helping veterans and their families get where they’re going,” and from this video.
Managed by Easter Seals Project ACTION, this dialogue is open to:
- Veterans, service members, and their families
- Military and veteran service organizations
- Transportation providers (public and private)
- Human service providers
- State, city, and county officials delivering services and outreach to veterans
- County offices of Veterans Affairs
- VA hospitals
- Colleges and universities
What outcomes might the outreach lead to? Here is one example of how USDOT has worked to help veterans.
Last May  the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a rule that makes it easier for veterans to take the first step toward getting a job as a professional truck or bus driver.
The new rule allows any veteran with two years of safe experience driving a commercial motor vehicle in the military to apply for a civilian commercial driver’s license. Qualifying veterans are only required to pass a written test to obtain a civilian CDL.
And FMCSA is reaching out to the various branches of the military to encourage robust participation. The agency is already working with the U.S. Army National Guard and Reserves to establish a formal program that will make it easy for drivers being trained by the Army to also qualify for a civilian CDL.
The Federal Transit Administration has a Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative, described as
an innovative, federally coordinated partnership that will make it easier for U.S. veterans, active service members, military families, and others to learn about and arrange for locally available transportation services that connect them with work, education, health care, and other vital services in their communities.
View a list of the Initiative’s 2011 grants.