When you determine that purchasing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle will be beneficial and necessary for yourself or an individual you care for, you undoubtedly want to look for one that has everything you need at a price you can afford.
For those who have served in the military and have a service-connected disability, there are automobile grants available through the government for veterans. The safety and comfort of wheelchair-accessible vans, SUVS, and cars are unmatched for those who need them for transport and ease of hauling equipment. And for eligible veterans, wheelchair-accessible vehicles can be much easier to afford, thanks to the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act.
The Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act
On January 5, 2023, the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act was signed into law. The main focus of this Act is focused on educational assistance benefits for veterans, presenting permanent authority for certain flexibilities. In addition to these new provisions for active duty and former service members, there were some updated automotive industry-specific provisions included, as well, creating excellent benefits for disabled veterans in the United States.
What NMEDA Members and U.S. Veterans Need to Know
What does the new Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act offer in terms of an adaptive equipment grant? These specific provisions were added, making it much easier to get the adaptive equipment you need and make a specially equipped vehicle more affordable.
- Previously, an automobile grant was only offered once in a lifetime. With the new Act, Veterans Affairs, or the VA, is authorized to provide an additional auto grant to eligible veterans if their previous grant was received at least 30 years prior. In 2033, this timeframe will decrease to 10 years.
- “Medical services” as defined by Veterans Affairs has been updated to include specific vehicle modifications. This can consist of lifts, raised roofs, air conditioning, and wheelchair tie-downs.
- As an adaptive equipment benefit, non-articulating trailers are now designated as “adaptive equipment,” allowing the VA to purchase and install these products. These trailers are used to transport powered scooters, powered wheelchairs, or other powered mobility equipment.
The Positive Implications of the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act
It’s no doubt that these provisions will positively impact veterans and their families. According to the Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, Carl Blake, this Act will save disabled service members tens of thousands of dollars. On average, a modified motor vehicle will last around 11.5 years before it needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, the high cost of these vehicles in addition to inflation can make it difficult and become a financial burden, especially if the veteran is provided with an automobile grant only once in their life. Being able to become eligible for another grant means these individuals will have access to purchase safe, reliable transportation that is essential to their mobility and independence.
Qualifying and Applying for Adaptive Automobile Equipment
To be eligible for disability compensation and benefits from the VA, individuals must be veterans or service members, and disabilities must be related to service and classified as service-connected disabilities. These include at least one of the following conditions:
- The loss of or permanent loss of use of one or both feet or hands
- Permanently decreased vision in both eyes
- 20/200 vision or less in the better eye with glasses, or
- greater than 20/200 vision but with a visual field defect, reducing peripheral vision to 20 degrees or less in the better eye
- Severe burn injury
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Ankylosis in one or both knees or hips*
*Ankylosis qualifies the disabled veteran for an adaptive-equipment grant only.
In order to receive these benefits, you will need to file a disability compensation claim and get approved prior to purchasing a vehicle or adaptive equipment. When filing, you will need to show that the disability is service-connected or treated as service-connected under 38 U.S.C. 1151. The grant can be applied for and used before or after military discharge.
To apply for a one-time payment to purchase a specially-equipped vehicle, complete the Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment, or VA Form 21-4502. Upon approval, the vehicle’s seller will be paid directly by the VA.
For an adaptive equipment-only grant, fill out an Application for Adaptive Equipment–Motor Vehicle, or VA Form 10-1394. Upon approval, this payment may be paid directly to you or to the equipment seller.
Choosing the Right Accessible Vehicle
If you are applying for a disability compensation claim through the VA, you’ll need to search for the right accessible vehicle. Purchasing a specially-equipped vehicle takes careful consideration to determine what option will work best for both your needs and your budget.
The Cost of Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicles
On average, wheelchair-accessible vehicles can cost between $20,000 to $100,000 depending on the make, model, and features. The 2023 grant from the VA currently provides an eligible veteran with $24,155.12 towards the desired accessible vehicle, paid directly to the vehicle seller. The VA adjusts the grant amount every fiscal year to match the percentage of cost-of-living adjustments made to Social Security benefits.
Who Can Help Find the Right Vehicle for a Disabled Veteran?
Going to a traditional dealership isn’t always ideal as the sales department won’t typically have the most in-depth information regarding accessibility options and add-ons. Visiting a dealership that specializes in mobility needs, like Southern Bus, will be invaluable in helping you find the right one. Choose from an inventory of personal mobility vehicles, including side and rear-entry minivans, side-entry wheelchair SUVs, and more.
Get the Information and Assistance You Need to Find the Right Accessible Vehicle
As a disabled veteran, you should not have to be placed into financial hardship simply because you require equipment that allows you to remain mobile and independent. If you are applying for a grant through the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act, you need to work with an experienced mobility dealership to purchase exactly what you need for a great price. At Southern Bus and Mobility, we are an NMEDA QAP Certified dealer, meaning we’re here to help make your buying process easy to understand and ensure the wheelchair-accessible vehicle you purchase is high-quality.
Contact our team, shop our available inventory online, or visit a Southern Bus location near you today. Be sure to check out our other Resources for Veterans for more information on mobility needs for you or a disabled service member in your life.