After giving what he deemed an unacceptable answer to a veteran — who was looking for a ride to a medical appointment — on his first day as Northumberland County’s Veterans’ Affairs director late last year, Jeff Wojciechowski decided to take action. The veterans in Northumberland County will be rewarded for Wojciechowski’s push.

Valley veterans seeking medical care — and residents of all ages and conditions really — can be limited by the availability of care in the region. It might be limits on specialty care or transportation or even broadband access as telemedicine surges in popularity. For Valley veterans, it’s a combination of all of those things, but particularly transportation.

The closest Veterans Affairs clinics to the Valley are either Pottsville or Williamsport. The closest VA hospitals are either Wilkes-Barre or Harrisburg.

None of those four sites are particularly close, nor easy to get to.

So Wojciechowski sought to close those gaps as best he could, especially after a veteran asked for transportation options for a trip to the VA hospital in Lebanon. On Friday, Wojciechowski announced a partnership with rabbittransit, an agreement that gives all 6,500 veterans and their spouses/caretakers free transportation for medical appointments or other needs for the next year. The $5,500 program will be paid through community donations, local grants and county funds with a goal of extending the program indefinitely if community organizations step up to donate.

So far, the Mount Carmel VFW, Mount Carmel Knights of Columbus, Sunbury American Legion and Milton VFW have donated monetarily to the transportation program. The county is also seeking a grant through the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund.

“We need to try to get more organizations involved,” incoming Mount Carmel VFW Commander Mike Adams, said. “Our veterans help everyone in the community. If it’s not for veterans we wouldn’t be here. Our freedom is dependent on the veterans we have and we need to take care of them.”

This is a program many more entities in our region should get behind. While not a moneymaker, it provides a service sorely needed in the region. Right now, the transportation is paid for the next year. It is our hope others get on board and help fund this valuable service.

It also checks one box Wojciechowski has had his eyes on early in his tenure. “When I started, I said these are the people I want to take care of,” he said.

There are dozens of other things veterans need, but transportation to medical appointments is either at the top of the list or right at it. This is a fantastic step for county veterans who have given us all so much.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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