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Disabled vets forced to walk ‘hundreds of feet’ due to VA parking shortage

The VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C (Washington DC VA Medical Center/Facebook)
August 16, 2018

Patients with disabilities are having a very hard time finding parking spaces at a major VA Medical Center.

The VA Medical Center in Washington DC has apologized for parking shortages that have forced disabled vets to battle hills and traffic to get to medical appointments. The sprawling facility has forced veterans — some with severe mobility limitations — to walk hundreds of feet, the local News4 I-Team reported.

A new parking structure is underway at the facility. While it will open up some 460 new parking spaces, it won’t be finished until March.

The leading facility, ran by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has more than 100,000 patients and around 2,000 employees.

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Jonathan Warwick is a U.S. Army veteran from Gaithersburg, Maryland who is recovering from a fractured spine and two recently replaced hips. Warwick said: “Sometimes if I have a noon appointment, I’ll leave home at 8 o’clock in the morning. One time my foot got stuck and I fell walking there. I told my doctor about it.”

An internal VA study of accessibility challenges released under the Freedom of Information Act exposed that officials knew about the problem parking.

The study said: “Even for the able bodied it is ‘a hike’ from car to front door. A visitor must walk in the drive aisles through parking lots or on grass around parking lots because the only sidewalks are up at the building perimeter. For disabled patients this is an unacceptable deficiency.”

While the facility does offer valet parking, the wait is often 60 minutes.

Army veteran Sequoia Pointer of Waldorf, Maryland uses a motorized scooter as he recovers from the effects of a stroke. Pointer said: “I give myself two hours (to find parking). If I start doing the valet, it’ll be two and a half hours.”

“We fully understand the frustration veterans and visitors are experiencing when parking at the facility. We offer our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience the Patient and Visitor Parking Garage construction project may cause,” an agency facility spokeswoman said in response to questions from local News4 I-Team.

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The same VA study also revealed that there are parking issues at more than 12 other VA facilities across the country.

Additional handicapped-accessible parking spaces are needed at medical centers in Beckley, West Virginia; Augusta, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; and Ann Arbor, Michigan.