Volunteer vacation trips have become a way for VA doctors and other staff members to spend time away from the hospital, and for patients to see their friends and family, with the help of an organization called VivaVolunteer.
In 2016, the VA paid $1.4 million to a group of more than 1,300 local VA doctors to help their families vacation to Hawaii for five weeks.
VivaVolus volunteer doctors traveled with their spouses, two daughters and two sons to Hawaii with the goal of raising money for the American Red Cross.
The trip was supposed to take place from January 16 to 25, but only about 5 percent of the time was filled.
“This trip was meant to give our spouses a break from work and give our children and grandkids a chance to see us in our home,” said Dr. Robert E. Ruppelt, a volunteer physician at VA Hospital Sacramento.
“But unfortunately, our vacation was not quite as productive as we had hoped.
Our trip was the first of several planned by Vivavolunteers to raise money for a hospital that serves many veterans.
Volunteers will travel to Hawaii, visit family members in California, and visit veterans in Florida, Virginia and Arizona.
This trip will also give us the opportunity to work with veterans who are not participating in the VA.
We will work with them to connect them with VA facilities and programs, and to give them the resources to receive care that will allow them to live better lives and better lives for their families.”
Dr. Rupaul said he wanted to make the trip to Hawaii as much for the family as the doctor.
He said he hopes that this trip will give his family a chance at experiencing what he experienced when he and his wife, a nurse, visited with his daughter in their home in August.
“This is something that I have always dreamed of doing, but never could,” Dr. Roppelt said.
Dr. E.R. Rupsul, a VA hospital physician, said he plans to give away some of the money he raises from this trip to other VA hospitals.
VA has donated a total of more $16.2 million to help veterans.