NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Approximately 45,000 veterans call North Dakota home and one of those veterans is Sandi Whipple.
Whipple is a North Dakota native who served in the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps, known as WAAC.
She has relied on the Ward County Disabled American Veteran Van to get her to and from her medical appointments from her home in Berthold.
“I used it for two years. And the van is now sitting in a parking lot,” said Whipple.
But she says now, she has no way of getting anywhere.
“The last time that van was on the highway with a patient was January 5th of this year. That’s a long time. And I know that for a fact because I was the patient in the van on January 5th, and Neil was the driver,” Whipple explained.
Whipple says Neil, who is also a veteran, has since retired and can no longer volunteer his time to drive the van.
The Veteran’s Van is run by the DAV in Fargo and the VA Health Care System, which relies on volunteers to drive it unless the county is considered a highly rural area. If the county is considered highly rural, the Veterans Van driver becomes a permanent paid employee. However, Ward County is not considered highly rural, so it relies on volunteers in order for the van to operate.
“My personal opinion is all of North Dakota is highly rural. Just because there is 35,000 people in Minot, it’s still rural,” said Whipple.
She says she’s reached out to several local, state, and national leaders to get the van up and running again.
“I’ve written letters to everyone I could possibly think of. I started in Fargo with my chain of command and I went up the ladder. And I got nothing. Not even a form letter from anybody, and I wrote all the way to Washinton D.C. Even our State Senator. And I got no phone call, I got no letter, no response of any kind. Not from anyone. I even wrote to the Governor,” Whipple said.
She says she hopes her story reaches someone who will take responsibility, and help the 7,500 veterans in Ward County find reliable transportation to medical appointments.
“Someone has to be responsible for a driver, for that van. But who? Everybody says it’s not them,” Whipple added.