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Putting you in the driver’s seat: Answering 5 questions about becoming a volunteer driver with VA

open road sunrise
Driving Veterans as a volunteer driver is a great way to build meaningful relationships with those who have served and give back to the community.

Being trusted to drive Veterans is a big responsibility.

To celebrate VA Illiana’s 2023 Volunteer Driver Recruitment week, we explore what it takes to hit the road in support of America's heroes. In this Q&A, Jennifer Sheehan-Wells, chief of VA Illiana’s Center for Development and Civic Engagement (CDCE), takes an in-depth look at the process of volunteering—from the first call to rolling out of the parking lot.

  1. After a prospective volunteer makes the first contact with VA Illiana, what is going on behind the scenes, and what can they expect next?

The next step is an interview with our voluntary specialist or transportation coordinator. They will go over information about what the assignment entails and discuss the onboarding process. They’ll discuss the physical exam (conducted with our occupational health department), the required orientation and training, and the background checks.

This is also an opportunity for the potential volunteer and the staff member to get to know each other. A good conversation helps determine if the potential volunteer is a good fit for the role of a volunteer driver. Sometimes, volunteers find they begin with one opportunity in mind and find a better fit in another role. When someone volunteers to drive, we share many opportunities with them.

  1. Driving is a big responsibility. What special requirements are in place for volunteer drivers?

All our volunteer drivers must be over 18 years of age and pass a detailed physical, which is provided free of charge. Prospective volunteers in this role must also maintain a driver’s license.  Applicants are also required to submit a driver’s record, and any traffic violations present on one's record must be minor.

Even though you are not required to use your insurance while driving Veterans, applicants will need to show proof of insurance to prove their insurability. Applicants must also pass a background check and complete the orientations and specified training. Volunteer drivers receive the standard training given to all VA Illiana volunteers as well as additional specialized training. Once a driver begins volunteering, they’ll be expected to contribute 4 hours per week and complete the required annual training.

  1. What kind of training and support are in place for volunteer drivers?

Volunteer drivers often interact with VA Illiana staff in the performance of their duties and are well supported by these interactions. The training involved consists of the general volunteer orientation, which goes over the expectations, policies, and procedures expected of them.

During the driver’s orientation, volunteers will receive training on topics including the Illinois Rules of the Road and the process of updating their driver’s license and insurance cards. Aspiring volunteer drivers will also be required to conduct two “ride-along” trips with a VA Illiana CDCE staff member or volunteer driver. This helps the prospective volunteer learn more about pickup, drop-off, paperwork, and vehicle maintenance processes.

  1. How can a person prepare for duty as a volunteer driver?  

Most preparation happens after a prospective volunteer has their initial meeting with VA staff. After we’ve determined that the role might be a good fit, we will give an applicant the phone numbers to set up their background check and schedule their physical. Applicants can also keep the process moving forward by getting a copy of their driving record from their local driver’s services facility and making sure they have a current driver’s license and insurance card.  Naturally, it is also a good idea to brush up on the rules of the road!

  1. What are the top qualities you’re looking for in a volunteer driver?

We are looking for people who can provide excellent customer service with a Veteran-first mindset. You should be able to put a Veteran’s mind at ease on the way to the appointment, gauging the level of interaction the Veteran needs. Finally, you should be a defensive driver who places safety as the top priority. If this sounds like you, go ahead and apply!

To begin the process of becoming a volunteer, reach out to Andrea Hooker at (309) 589-6800, ext. 47279, email us at, or simply message us via Facebook Messenger.