U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the launch of a groundbreaking national online dialogue to highlight the local transportation needs, challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s veterans, wounded warriors, and military service members and their families. The web-based dialogue invites military families, veterans and organizations that support them to engage in a discussion on overcoming barriers, forming strategic partnerships, and improving communications to ultimately improve access to transportation. On-line registration begins today at http://veteransdialogue.ideascale.com.
“President Obama understands that we must do more than express our sincere appreciation to the men and women who bravely protect and defend the United States of America,” said Secretary LaHood. “We are committed to helping these individuals and their families here at home find meaningful work, a good education and quality medical care—none of which is possible without access to reliable, affordable transportation choices.”
The dialogue is managed and operated by Easter Seals Project ACTION through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration, using funds from the U.S. Department of Labor.
“This national conversation will, for the first time, enable veterans and service members to engage in a frank and creative exchange about their transportation needs with a wide range of organizations that can ultimately deliver solutions,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, whose agency played a lead role in developing the dialogue and administering grants for veterans through the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative. “This effort complements our ongoing investments that help America’s service veterans and their families to make the connections they need to get to work or job training, stay in school and keep more money in their pockets instead of paying it at the pump.”
The online dialogue, entitled “Strengthening Transportation Choices So We Can Serve Those Who Have Served Their Country,” runs from May 7 to June 8. Stakeholders with a legitimate interest in improving conditions for veterans and service members may participate, including:
- Veterans, service members, and their families;
- Military and veteran service organizations;
- Transportation providers (public and private);
- Human service networks providers;
- State, city, and county officials delivering services and outreach to veterans;
- County offices of Veterans Affairs;
- Veterans Administration hospitals;
- College and universities
A public report will be issued after the dialogue has closed, capturing a range of comments and the most popular ideas generated. The findings may be used to inform future federal, state and local decisions about effective transportation policies and coalition-building.
The outreach effort also reflects President Obama’s Open Government initiative, which encourages government agencies to use technology to engage citizens on various topics with the ability to provide ideas or vote and comment on other people’s ideas.
The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative announced more than $34 million in grants in 2011 for one-call, one-click transportation resources centers around the country serving veterans, service members, and their families to improve access to local and regional transportation choices. The department is currently reviewing applications for up to an additional $30 million made available for the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative for 2012 through the Bus and Bus Facilities program as well as the FTA Research program.
Both the grant program and the national dialogue were developed cooperatively through the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, a federal inter-agency partnership established in 2004 and currently chaired by Secretary LaHood. In addition to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the veterans’ initiatives are supported by the departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services (all Coordinating Council members), with additional support from the Department of Defense and leading veteran and military service organizations around the country.