BRISTOW, Va. (DC News Now) – A Northern Virginia veterans organization is running out of funds it uses to run a program that its members say is critical to their well-being.
NOVA Vets’ efforts to provide veterans rides to-and-from their doctor appointments have been a massive success – especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, the nonprofit is on the verge of failing to meet the high demand due to financial challenges.
Because of the growth, NOVA Vets estimates a cost of $10,000 a month to provide the roughly 200-300 rides it has had in recent months.
NOVA Vets founder Angela McConnell told DC News Now these services are more valuable than simply calling an Uber. Some of the veterans need extra help, whether that means help with a wheelchair or assistance scheduling rides since they lack the technology to do so themselves.
In 2021, the organization partnered with the Dulles Area Transportation Association, where it received federal funding that led to over 1,500 rides.
“If I miss a day, it could be a day that when I go to sleep, I could pass away,” said Eddy Acosta, a U.S. Navy veteran who retired from the CIA after health problems.
Acosta, who lives in Bristow, Virginia, receives dialysis three days a week, and also lost his vision.
“When you’re at that position in life where you’re blind and… your kidney goes out that you have to go to dialysis. You’re going to need help,” he said.
NOVA Vets has provided Acosta with rides to his appointments.
“We don’t want to add burden to our veterans who are already going through so much,” McConnell said.
The federal money NOVA Vets received is running out roughly eight months earlier than anticipated, McConnell said. And that’s due to the popularity of the program.
“Access to health care is one of the biggest barriers that our veterans have,” she said.
Acosta faces a tough battle for his health but said it would be an impossible one without transportation help.
“To be in a predicament where you have nobody and you have somebody to say that they’re there? It’s priceless,” he said holding back tears.
Acosta noted he has support from family, including his wife, but she needs both of her knees replaced and cannot drive, making the program all the more important.
As for a solution, McConnell is searching for funding from any direction – from fellow organizations, to state and federal government sources.
“I have a lot of promises, but I haven’t had any follow-through yet.”