2 Investigators: Disabled Vets Face Tough Parking At VA Hospital

(CBS) — A major problem at Hines VA Medical Center: Some sick and wounded veterans are struggling to get to their medical appointments because of parking violators.

CBS 2’s Dave Savini has the story.

James Dahan, a Marine Corps veteran, gets angry when fellow wounded vets struggle to find a parking spot.

“It’s clearly a violation. They need to be ticketed,” Dahan says of a vehicle illegally parked near the entrance to the VA.

He says seriously injured veterans going to the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Maywood are forced to wheel or walk long distances. This is because parking spots for those with disabilities are taken by motorists not permitted to use them.

“That really ticks me off,” Dahan says.

The 2 Investigators found plenty of examples of cars, without required placards in windows, snagging the handicapped-designated spots. Even the lot reserved for spinal cord injury victims had problems. Yet CBS 2 never saw a single ticket issued.

“Seeing veterans pushing from the back of the parking lot with a wheelchair or a walker, it’s disgusting,” Dahan says.  “They deserve a lot better than that.”

There is valet service, but those lines can be long and cause delays, he says.

“If you’re 15 minutes late, they cancel your appointment,” Dahan says.

CBS 2 also found numerous fire lane and loading zone violators, too.

Dahan injured his foot while serving in Iraq. He has had three surgeries and suffers from nerve damage. Because of his time using a wheelchair, Dahan says he can understand how difficult it can be when parking.

“Transferring in and out of a wheelchair takes a lot more than people can understand,” he says.

The 2 Investigators found a vehicle parked next to a disabled spot, in a loading zone designed to help a person in a wheelchair get in and out of their vehicle.

“They do that all the time,” one driver with disabilities says.

Dahan says Hines VA needs to better patrol the lots and ticket illegal parkers.  He also said they need more spaces and could use a parking structure, similar to those found at other hospitals.

A spokesperson from Hines says they are now upgrading the spinal cord lot with new signs and new striping. They are also considering hiring more valet workers, along with opening an overflow lot for employees.

The hospital’s full statement:

“At Hines VA Hospital we provide outpatient care to about 2,000 Veterans on an average week day and parking is often their first and last experience with the VA. With several construction projects underway, parking is stretched to its capacity, even with more than 250 handicap accessible parking spaces available. We have 76 accessible parking spaces in our dedicated lot for Spinal Cord Injury rehabilitation. We also offer free valet services to all of our patients.

We are monitoring the parking situation and have recently taken additional steps that include:

*  Making every attempt to complete clinic visits when patients are delayed because of parking

* Opening an overflow gravel parking lot for employees to help ensure patients and visitors have access to the most convenient spaces

* Adding signage that identifies where patients can find additional parking and promoting the availability of free valet parking for our patients and visitors

* Working with our volunteers to provide more frequent shuttles for patients parking in more distant lots

* Upgrading handicap parking in our Spinal Cord Injury parking lot (additional striping & signage)

We are considering additional valet staff as needed and looking at the possibility of adding another gravel lot on the north end of the campus.

As our construction projects continue to progress, we will continue to inform our patients of any impact on parking areas via on-site signage, direct mail, social media and face-to-face communications.”

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