Revolutionary is a regular series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. The series focuses on VA employees who are disrupting the status-quo, breaking down barriers, and attempting to radically revolutionize Veteran care and employee experience.

Boston VA’s Charles Franklin was working in South Shore, Massachusetts, in 2017 as a Community employment coordinator. He noticed the rising cost of living was forcing the Veterans he worked with to move to the outskirts of the city. Often, they moved to areas with a lack of public transportation options.

Franklin had an idea to address this problem. He worked with the VA Innovators Network and later the New England Center for Innovation Excellence. Together, they designed and implemented a rideshare program to meet Veteran housing and employment needs.

Franklin’s revolutionary journey went from the initial rideshare pilot to expansion of services to 18 VA networks. The rideshare program is in 133 VA medical centers, with over 15,000 rides thus far. Along the way, he’s learned a very important lesson about innovating in the largest health care system in the country.

Charles Franklin, VA Innovation Ecosystem Revolutionary

“If it isn’t easy for frontline staff to use, they won’t use it,” Franklin said. “Getting frontline staff invested and involved in the solution also helps when the project hits a wall. You are on the same team and incorporating feedback from front-line staff ultimately helps everyone.”

Operating in a pandemic

Another lesson Franklin learned is the art of the pivot. Transportation needs surged when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, especially after volunteer transportation services shut down. Franklin’s willingness to adapt allowed rideshare to ensure Veterans were still able to get critical care. It also led to the distribution of more than 40,000 meals to vulnerable Veterans in 2021.

He saw the need for this program to be permanent and went through the appropriations process to get funding from Congress, guaranteeing this resource for Veterans.

The innovator in you

Franklin had to overcome multiple obstacles in launching the program. Now, he finds himself with the freedom to be a problem-solver, no longer confined to just “what is available.”

“So long as you understand the why and let it drive you, ‘no’s’ and ‘we can’t do it that way’s’ will not stop you,” Franklin said.

Franklin’s story is not unlike other innovators’ stories and could easily resemble the path you take. From serving in the Army infantry for 12 years to revolutionary health care innovator, Charles Franklin continues to provide and refine essential health care services for Veterans nationwide and is taking a bite out of health care inequality in the process.

Want to support VHA IE’s innovation revolution? Visit our website (https://www.va.gov/innovationecosystem/) to learn about opportunities to become involved in innovation at VA.

By Kalyn Essex is a communications officer at the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. She is an Air Force Veteran who served for 12 years, including one Operation Enduring Freedom tour.

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Published on Jan. 19, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.4 min.

Views to date: 1,330

9 Comments

  1. Disciple for Christ January 21, 2022 at 8:42 am

    Thank you Mr. Franklin for ALL that you do!
    You are appreciated.
    May God bless you abundantly in the name of Jesus.

  2. Matthew January 20, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    This article is almost useless because it doesn’t give any info or link to access the ride share. ??????

  3. John H January 20, 2022 at 9:48 am

    I agree sounds great!
    Is there a link to program?
    What is the name?
    Where is it offered?
    Is this something coming to more areas?
    Timelines?
    Who is doing the driving? veterans, Uber/Lyft, volunteer
    Who is eligible?
    How does this help front line workers?

    • Charles January 20, 2022 at 11:17 am

      Currently for the VHA Homeless Rideshare Program this is available at all VHA Sites with a VHA Homeless Program. Transportation must be scheduled through VHA Homeless Program staff (HUD-VASH Case Managers, Employment Counselor, Outreach staff etc.) The transportation is available to any Veteran receiving supportive services from Homeless Program staff.

      Uber and Lyft are providing a majority of the rides as the program leverages both platforms.

      This provides direct frontline access to transportation for VA Employees working with Veterans Experiencing Homeless or that are receiving supportive services for Housing.

      • Jeff Glynn January 26, 2022 at 4:03 am

        Thank you for the additional information about the VHA Homeless RideShare Program! I’m glad Veterans receiving services from HUD-VASH can access these rideshare options. Are there any plans to expand the service to Veterans with transportation challenges who are not receiving HUD-VASH? Transportation was a big issue for Veterans with substance use disorder.

  4. Barry Litchfield January 20, 2022 at 5:46 am

    Sounds great! Where is it available? When will it be available to veterans in the area ~ 50 miles north of San Antonio Texas for appointments at the Audie Murphy VA in San Antonio?

    • Charles January 20, 2022 at 11:18 am

      If the Veteran is engaged with the Homeless Program staff the resource is available through VHA Homeless Program staff in San Antonio.

  5. Karen January 20, 2022 at 12:56 am

    I have an idea to challenge status quo and revolutionize Veteran care! How about we have a real zero tolerance policy on the systemic and commonplace sexual harassment within the VA?

    Let’s start by examining the VHA’s Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC in Denver, CO. We can assess the “ICARE” idea. For some in that facility, it sure seems like “IDONOTCARE” with their appalling unprofessionalism and disregard for Patient’s Rights. Let’s remind all of them that their patients have fought for the freedom they enjoy and were all injured in the process. Then see about instilling appreciation in the form of quality care, respect and no sexual harassment.

  6. Faith January 19, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    This is great news and it is wonderful to see how one person’s persistence helped facilitate a ride share initiative for veterans and Frontline workers within the VA healthcare system.

    I would like to talk with someone who helps veterans who have been wronged or their care was maligned by ill-means. Success stories like this one is commendable and should be the norm but what can a female veteran with an Honorable Discharge and is a widow of a Marine Corp Vietnam Veteran when she finds out that her deceased husband’s family got some VA employees to help harass is off and on since 1981? It is all cing out within this past year. And why is it that a white make veteran whose wife says he got a felony for selling drugs, can get better treatment within our local VA system than someone like my deceased husband and myself? Even a decision maker through Social Security admitted he was playing favorites for certain v. I had to find an expert Social Security attorney out-of-syate to represent me and it still doesn’t mean things will be ruled in my favor. Heck, found out tonight while Trump was in office $1200 stimulus payments went to prisoners; which is fine since they need to be treated well, but the IRS was allowed to keep the one $600 stimulus check of mine and I do not owe thousands in taxes.

    How is it that a legally disabled female veteran who chose to serve in the military is dogged as if she was never born to n America, but I was born in America. Tell me why a VA nurse was allowed to try to find out information about my WWII Air Force Uncle,y other Uncle’s in my mom’s side who served in the military plus my dad’s two brothers and my oldest brother is a Vietnam Era Veteran? I have a letter from 2006 from a VA Psychiatrist that shows I experienced military trauma but after my private insurance nurse contacted the VA about an allergic reaction to one medication was reported to the VA, I found out another Psychiatrist tried to cover my military PTSD report up. Also, why is it that another VA employee was allowed to take out documents from my VA medical/Psychology records? Found that out by others veterans having been told, who lived around us.

    I’ve never been a trouble maker. I’ve spoken up in issues but for professional health care providers and employees to be allowed or get away with taking private reports out of ones’ medical records is a HIPPA violation. I’m a prior VA employee and worked in the federal Civil workforce in Illinois. I have several college credits but did have to take a break from school a few years ago due to stresses.

    Thanks for listening. Just because a veteran speaks up does not mean the person is ignorant or abusive. Our family is multi-racial. I’m white but my husband was multi-racial. It is not a crime to marry out of one’s race and why are their laws to protect one’s medical records; yet someone in more than one BA facility has been allowed to cause myself and our family issues?

Comments are closed.

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