Modesto-area veterans medical transportation service looks for volunteers

Seven or eight years ago, Joe Madden of Modesto discovered that disabled and homebound veterans were missing medical appointments or badly needed treatments because they did not have transportation.

Madden, a member of the Stanislaus County Veterans Advisory Commission, started a volunteer taxi service and ran it for four years before Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, helped obtain two donated vans.

Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs pays the expenses for the van service but has not been willing to pay for drivers. Some additional volunteers are needed to drive the vans, Madden said.

“It is a real necessary service,” said Madden, who has transported homebound veterans who otherwise would not receive cancer treatment. “I am fighting with (the VA) to try and get it expanded.”

The transportation is for older veterans who are in no condition to take the buses or health care shuttles provided for veterans in Stanislaus County, who are an hour or two-hour drive away many VA medical services. The donated vans have lifts for those in wheelchairs.

The van service takes them to and from appointments at veteran health care facilities in Stanislaus County, Livermore and Palo Alto.

Volunteer drivers need to have a clean driving record. A physical examination is required to make sure they don’t have contagious illness that could endanger the passengers.

Madden said the vans are owned by the VA and are insured by the government.

Madden, 76, and two other volunteers are transporting a half-dozen people per week, and they expect the numbers will grow. Madden said the service also could use volunteer escorts.

Those interested in the volunteer work should call him at (209) 914-4764.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.