ON YOUR SIDE: Veteran asks for parking help

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - He couldn't get answers from the VA Hospital, so a disabled veteran turned to 12 On Your Side for help with a parking problem. He says it's taking a toll on vets trying to get into the medical center for care.

Larry Pollard is quite upset and says three letters he's written that have gone unanswered. He says many other sick and disabled vets have the same problem.

With knee and back operations -- the distance from where Larry parks his truck to the front door of McGuire Veterans Medical Center is no walk in the park for a disabled vet.

"If you're out of breath and you're carrying an oxygen bottle and you can't hardly walk to begin with. I've had four back surgeries. I have total knee replacement. It's very hard for me to walk in and out of there," Larry said.

The closest spot to the door is what everybody wants but valet parking has it locked down, cordoned off and that angers Larry. He believes the valet service should use outer lots and veterans coming for doctors' appointments should have the lot closest to the hospital doors.

"They make us walk greater distances. The valet people, they're young guys. They can walk back and forth no problem at all," he said.

NBC12 reached out to the VA Medical Center by email and phone asking to talk with the chief of police but got a statement from public affairs instead. It says, in part, "Handicapped parking is at every entrance, more than five times the number of spaces required by ADA regulation...And, a shuttle runs during peak hours." Larry says there is no shuttle.

"Haven't seen one. They say there used to be one out there. That's the key. You used to have one. You don't now," said Larry.

The valet lot, McGuire says, is available to patients and their family. But Larry says officers are confused.   They let him park some days. Others, they order him out.

"I can't get no answer. This is why I called channel 12," he said.

And then there are days he says valets jam him in, encroaching on his handicap space and he can't open his driver door.

"I couldn't get into it. I had to climb through the passenger side and across the center," Larry explained. "It's very hard to do and they just don't care."

My inquiries got a meeting scheduled for July, for Larry, with the administrator and police chief. He's been trying to get one for a long time. The VA hospital says we're not invited but we will follow up. It says, it's a busy medical center, parking may be a challenge, and it's pleased a new 600 space parking garage -- will be built next year.

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