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Flake asks ADOT to help veterans find their way to VA facilities

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PHOENIX – Citing concerns raised by veterans, Sen. Jeff Flake is urging the Arizona Department of Transportation to assess whether roadway signage pointing to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities is adequate.

“Many of the larger urban locations are clearly distinguished with identifying signs along the roadway,” Flake said in a Sept. 24 letter to ADOT Director John S. Halikowski. “However, some smaller community-based outpatient clinics and similar sites are apparently more difficult to locate.”

Flake’s letter said that several veterans had approached him about what they considered inadequate signage along highways. It asked whether ADOT is aware of such concerns and, if so, what steps have been taken or are planned.

“Clearly, the responsibility to determine rules and regulations for roadway signage in Arizona lies squarely with the Arizona state government,” he said. “That said, we all share the responsibility of ensuring veterans have access to the services offered.”

Timothy Tait, ADOT’s assistant communication director, emailed Cronkite News Service a statement saying that the agency operates according to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices published by the Federal Highway Administration.

In general, ADOT’s statement said, medical clinics that don’t provide 24-hour service with the appropriate personnel don’t qualify for signage. Full-service VA hospitals are identified by signs on state highways, it said.

“The primary concern here is that ADOT does not want to direct a motorist in need to a medical facility that is closed or otherwise unprepared to meet emergency care needs,” the statement said.

Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, said he’d like to see signage pointing to VA facilities in his community, especially those offering outpatient treatment. After learning about Flake’s letter, he said he planned to raise the issue with ADOT and the Arizona Department of Veterans Services.

“Rural Arizona kind of always seems like the last on the totem pole to get noticed,” Borrelli said. “In Lake Havasu, for one, you really have to know the address where you’re going.”

David F. Lucier, president of the Arizona Veterans and Military Alliance, said Arizona roads need more signage pointing to VA facilities.

“There’s not enough of them,” Lucier said. “I think that they need to go out a little further; the only signs I’ve ever seen are basically within half a mile to maybe a mile from the place.”

Rep. Mark A. Cardenas, D-Phoenix, an Army and National Guard veteran who served in the Iraq War, said VA facilities are extremely difficult to find and that he’s glad Flake is taking up the issue of signage.

“It’s a good step by the senator to direct the problem to the department,” Cardenas said. “But he still has a long way to go to help our veterans.”