A Miami-Dade commissioner is proposing that veterans who received less than honorable discharges should get Patriot Passports – free transit tickets that allow them to ride Metrorail trains and Metrobuses for free.
If approved, the change would enable Miami-Dade Transit to issue the permits, known as Patriot Passports, to veterans who received a less than strictly honorable discharge.
Under current criteria, only veterans with an honorable discharge qualify for the program.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo said he took up the issue after reading in El Nuevo Herald about complaints from some veterans who have been denied Patriot Passports.
Bovo sponsored an item to amend the eligibility criteria for transit passes.
“The proposed amendment would disqualify only those veterans dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces,” according to a issued by the Commissioner’s legislative director Alex Annunziato.
If the measure should become law, it will open the door to those veterans who may have received general and administrative discharges, said the statement.
The issue came to light during the past Veterans Day when several veterans complained that they had been denied Patriot Passports.
Among those who complained was Raymond Rivera, who said he spent more than $10 a day taking buses and trains to take his daughter to school or keeping medical appointments at the VA hospital.
Rivera, 39, had applied for a Patriot Passport, but it was denied because he left the Army with a general discharge under honorable conditions. Rivera was one of several Miami-Dade veterans who was rejected by transit officials.
The Legal Services of Greater Miami sued on his behalf, saying he was “wrongfully” denied the Patriot Passport.
Transit officials’ “inflexible procedures” to determine whether a veteran is eligible for the Patriot Passport “unreasonably excludes a large number of our community’s most vulnerable veterans from participation in the program.”
MDT said it “does not comment on pending litigation.”
“This is a Miami-Dade County Commissioner-initiated amendment,” the agency said in a statement. “MDT will abide by any policy decisions made by the Board of County Commissioners.”