Three areas of the state are now offering free bus passes to disabled veterans. Dane County is starting a program similar to those found in Green Bay and Superior.
Military vets who survived challenges on the battlefield often face challenges of a different kind once they return. Transportation is one of them. Dane County Supervisor Erika Hotchkiss is a nurse at the VA hospital in Madison. She says vets disabled during service to their country deserve — and need — free bus passes. Few own cars.
"I work with vets who struggle with homelessness. Many of our vets are homeless. Most of our vets don't have jobs. Most have mental health issues on top of that. Helping them access transportation to get to job interviews, to get to employment ... once they attain that, to look for housing, get to appointments is vital."
Dane County has started giving out monthly bus passes and soon will give annual passes to eligible vets. Green Bay has been offering veterans free bus rides since 2010. Patty Kiewiz is assistant director of Green Bay's transit system. She says it's an affordable way for the city to show its support.
"Typically those individuals would be reduced-fare passengers on our system, so the fee to provide [the free pass] is very minimal. It's probably less than a hundred dollars a month."
On average, Kiewiz says Green Bay's bus system provides 40 free rides each month. She expects that number to increase when a new VA clinic opens in April.