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Shreveport motorcycle groups help Ark-La-Tex vets get to the doctor

Kate Archer Kent

A philanthropic association of motorcycle clubs in Shreveport, Veterans for Veterans, donated a new 12-passenger van Thursday to the Disabled American Veterans charity or DAV of north Louisiana.

The van will used to drive veterans from the Longview VA community clinic to the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport.

It was donated at a ceremony at Chevyland car dealership in Shreveport where the van was purchased.

Doug Leavitt, DAV’s hospital service coordinator for north Louisiana, manages a fleet of eight vehicles that transport veterans throughout the Ark-La-Tex to their appointments. Leavitt says seats are full.

“Some days, it’s almost like packing them in as a sardine can. There are just so many veterans that need this service,” Leavitt said, who started driving veterans almost 15 years ago. “From the Monroe area alone, there are times I have to turn to folks and say, could you reschedule your appointment? We just don’t have room in that van.”

Veterans for Veterans raises about $20,000 each year. This is the fourth van the organization has donated, according to the group’s event coordinator Theresa Neff.

Neff says it will replace a van that is just a few years old, but already logged more than 120,000 miles. She says these vans are on the road every day and help ensure all veterans have access to care.

“After a while of them trying to get to their appointment, it gets to be expensive. When they can’t afford it, we don’t want their health to suffer because of that. If they need a van, we’re going to make sure they get that,” Neff said.

Leavitt says the van being replaced in Longview will be moved to the Texarkana VA clinic and put into service there. DAV has stayed at the forefront of the transportation issue, according to Leavitt, as VA clinics nationwide have come under harsh criticism for access to care.

“We have established a program. We continually try to upgrade the program the best we possibly can. We work with the VA, and they’ve done a remarkable job as far as supporting us. So I can’t really complain about them. That’s for sure,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt says volunteer fleet drivers put in about a 12 hour day when they’re on duty.