MARION, Ind.-- Veterans in Marion are upset because they say employees at the VA are taking their parking spots. They say elderly, disabled veterans are having to walk from far distances to receive their treatment.
Some say that’s been happening for years at the Marion VA. The VA now says they're addressing the problem.
Veterans John Philburn and Phil Bainbridge depend on Northern Indiana VA Health Care.
“If I didn’t have the VA, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere,” said Philburn.
“I’ve been coming here since I returned from Iraq,” Bainbridge added.
The services they depend on are becoming harder to reach because they say VA employees aren’t following VA policies.
“Write parking tickets for that. It’s easy to implement,” said Bainbridge.
They tell us they’ve seen several employees parking in veteran spaces. Philburn relies on a walker and having to walk a far way from his car to his appointment is extremely challenging.
“Veterans should have choice preference parking,” said Philburn, “Not first come, first serve.”
He says he’s complained but nothing is being done. For Bainbridge, this is about respect.
“I don’t mind walking, I’m capable of walking, but I know there are other veterans from older generations than I, there are a few World War II era, there are still a lot of Korean war and Vietnam era veterans that really need closer parking spots,” said Bainbridge.
We reached out to the VA. They declined an interview, but offered this statement:
To improve access and patient care for our Veterans, Northern Indiana VA Health Care is in the process of expanding its primary care facilities. This construction requires the temporary removal of 132 parking spots of the 1,070 on campus. To minimize inconvenience to our Veteran patients, we added 109 temporary Veteran parking spots and a shuttle service, which is providing transportation to and from on-campus parking areas. Additionally, we are requiring staff to park further from building entrances during construction to ensure patients get the best parking spots possible.
“Fix it,” said Philburn. “It needs fixed, enforce the rules.”
The VA also started a shuttle service during construction. They’re using golf carts driven by volunteers to help transport veterans. However, veterans say sometimes they’re out of luck since it is volunteer-based and not always running.
Bainbridge says understands not all employees are breaking the rules. Many care and respect the veterans who come to them for services.
“I know there are employees here that do park in the appropriate parking spots,” said Bainbridge.
After our calls, the VA did hold a Skype town hall meeting to discuss the issue with employees. Both Philburn and Bainbridge agree that’s a step in the right direction, but they want to see action.
Northern Indiana VA Health Care wants veterans to know they are actively working on this problem.