There is a program throughout West Virginia unknown to most everyone except veterans. It is called the Veterans Transportation Network, which was established many years ago between the Veterans Affairs and the Disabled American Veterans service organization. It operates in all 50 states.
Its mission is to transport veterans who have no means to get to their medical appointments. This program is working at all four VA hospitals in West Virginia. Last year, its drivers provided nearly 12 million miles and countless hours of work.
Drivers providing this service are primarily disabled veterans themselves. The program started as a volunteer program, with drivers working anywhere from five to 18 hours a day.
However, several years ago, the state Legislature offered per-diem pay to each driver. This program is administered by the state Department of Military Affairs.
Not all drivers take the per diem. But some rely on it to make ends meet -- that is, they did, until recently.
In this year's budget cutbacks, reductions were made for every department in state government. Since that time, money has been transferred from various state accounts to cover shortfalls. Except for drivers for the Veterans Transportation Network.
Sometime last winter, when the budget deficits were identified, a conscious decision was made by a legislative committee, or the Department of Military Affairs, or the governor, to not pay these drivers the per diem they were due.
Before going any further, this complaint is not about the money, or lack thereof.
The problem is this: Even worse than not paying drivers the sums they thought they were earning, a conscious decision was made not to tell the drivers they would not receive their money until a new fiscal year began June 30. Checks for May and June vanished, after the services were performed.