MONTANA - The Montana VA will get a new ambulance service this summer. The ambulances will be used to transport veterans from one facility to another as needed.

Paramedic Supervisor Nathaniel Cook said there will be two new ambulances: one in Billings and one in Helena. Two paramedics will staff each ambulance.

He said the ambulances won't be used for emergencies. They will be used when a veteran needs to be transferred to a different facility for specialized care. He said there are over 47,000 veterans enrolled in the VA in Montana right now. 

The average cost right now to transfer a veteran to a facility in another city is about $1500. Depending on the veteran's enrollment, the veteran may share some of that cost. With the new ambulance service, there will be no cost to veterans.

"To be able to actually start a service from the ground up is not only a great honor, in terms of my perspective, but at the same time, it's also a great service that needs to be brought in," Cook said. "So, in my opinion, to be able to watch it built, and build it correctly, the way I wished it could for years and years, to fix small issues. To be able to fix that before it starts, it's very rewarding."

Cook said a federal grant will pay the start up costs, as well as operating costs, for the first three years.

The VA also told us they are celebrating 100 years at Ft Harrison Veteran's Hospital. On May 19, 1922 a military hospital in Helena became Ft. Harrison Veteran's Hospital. The VA will celebrate the anniversary on Friday, May 20. The public is welcome to attend a health fair at Ft. Harrison from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Tours of the facility will also be offered.

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