90-year-old Veteran injured in Medicaid funded wheelchair van ride

I-Team: Transport company has troubling past
Posted at 6:48 PM, Jul 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-26 15:37:40-04

Blood, a bump on the head and dehydration were the result of a wheel chair van ride Vernon Johnson recently took home from his doctor's appointment.

Your tax dollars paid for that ride, but the company that gave it has had other trouble in the past.

In 90 years Jacobson has had plenty of close calls , starting with D-Day.

As a young Coast Guardsman, he drove troops to shore on a barge.

But it’s his latest close call that had the potential to do the most damage.

“The wheels must have left the ground,” he said, describing the wild ride.

Jacobson's daughter Pam Schaer was with him when the van picked him up from an appointment at the VA hospital in Tampa to take him back to his nursing home in New Port Richey.

“No name on the side, the van looked bad. It wasn't a normal driver,” Schaer said.

Jacobson says the air conditioning didn't work and the driver drove recklessly.

During what was supposed to be a 45 minute ride, the driver made several stops and even picked up another passenger at a motel.  

Schaer had instructed the nursing home to call her when her father returned from his appointment.

“An hour went by, I didn't get a call. The next hour went by,” she said.

A total of 2 ½ hours would pass before Jacobson would return.

During the ride,  Jacobson says the driver jerked the wheel, knocking him out of his wheelchair. 

“I flew over, my head flew over and hit the side of the van,” he said.

The driver dropped Jacobson off at the nursing home and drove away.

“His arm was bloodied and he had a lump on his head from a blow to the head,” said Schaer. “My father's on blood thinners, so I know a blow to the head like that could kill him.”

Jacobson underwent CT scans, X-rays and treatment for dehydration.

He spent a total of three days in the hospital, but luckily, had no long-term health issues.

“We are trusting these people and this kind of thing should not happen,” said Schaer.

Access 2 care, one of America's largest medical transportation providers, has multi-million dollar contracts with Florida Medicaid plans to provide wheelchair van rides.

In Jacobson's case, they paid a small company called A-Plus NEMT, Florida, LLC to provide the service.

The I-Team discovered the business was incredibly difficult to find.

We went an executive suites building in Tampa, which was listed on Florida Secretary of State documents as the address of the company, but the company wasn’t located there.

Management said it hadn’t been for months.

We went to three other addresses associated with the company, but couldn't find the owner, Marqus Johnson, or his vehicles anywhere.

Eventually, we were able to reach Johnson by phone.

Johnson wouldn't agree to an interview and or allow us to see his vans.

He said he was prevented from talking about his business of the alleged incident because of HIPPA regulations.

Jacobson and his daughter agreed to sign a release allowing him to answer our questions, but he still refused.

Johnson would also not tell us the name of the person who drove Jacobson.

Despite being an in the transportation business, records show Johnson doesn't have a valid driver's license himself because of more than 50 traffic citations.

His license has been suspended multiple times in recent years, most recently last month.

Johnson has nine red light violations, seven speeding tickets and was cited in a fatal crash and another injury accident.

He’s also been charged with driving without a license repeatedly and failing to maintain insurance.

His company has had four complaints filed with the state since September of 2015.

But he's still hiring, offering drivers $100 a day in Craigslist ads, with no mention of background checks or training.

In fact, his ad says “no previous experience is necessary,” even though medical transport drivers are supposed to receive defensive driving training, CPR and First Aid training before they are eligible to work as contractors for Access to Care.

Access 2 Care says it can't comment, citing ongoing investigations by their company and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Schaer says she also contacted the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, ACHA her father’s Medicaid plan provider.

“Medicaid pays a lot for these transports, so somebody needs to be watching. Somebody needs to be keeping up with the companies,” Schaer said.

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