If you are a veteran who experienced an injury, illness, or other event while on qualifying active duty that led to a post-service disability, you could be entitled to coverage for technology and changes to your home and to purchase assistive devices. The coverage provided by the VA is to help a disabled veteran to adapt to life with their disability, to minimize the impact of mobility impairments and quality of life.
If you or a loved one needs help adapting to your disability, you could qualify for funding to change your home and for other assistive devices to help. A VA disability lawyer from our VA benefits law firm can help you collect the full coverage you need to address your disability.
What are the Types of Assistive Technology?
The purpose of assistive technologies is to enable a veteran with disabilities to better perform daily tasks, to increase mobility, and to support an improvement in their overall quality of life. Assistive technology can be essential in providing disabled veterans with the capacity to live more independently and to engage in everyday life.
Veterans whose disabilities have impacted their capacity to move are covered through VA benefits. Mobility aids are devices meant to improve upon the mobility and independence of veterans with physical disabilities and include wheelchairs, scooters, and canes.
Communication aids include augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, as well as voice recognition software. The purpose of these devices is to assist persons with language and speech disabilities to communicate more effectively despite their disabilities.
Hearing and Vision Aids
Hearing aids include cochlear impacts and more traditional hearing aids, and are meant to help persons with hearing impairments to better hear clearly. Vision aids include magnifying devices as well as braille displays. The aids help veterans with visual impairments to both read and see more clearly.
Modifications that are made to your home can range widely in their format but include stairlifts, grab bars, and ramps. These modifications are meant to help make your home environment more accessible and safe to navigate with your service-related disability. Special Home Adaptation grants and Specially Adapted Housing grants are available to this end, as we’ll explore in depth below.
Computer and Software
These are tools that assist individuals who have physical or cognitive disabilities to use electronic devices and computers better. These include screen readers, eye-tracking technology, and adaptive keyboards.
What Assistive Technologies Are Available for Physically Disabled People?
For persons with physical disabilities, mobility aids are the category of assistive technology that helps them to improve upon their mobility and capacity to perform everyday tasks. Veterans who have experienced a debilitating physical injury while on active service are able to improve their quality of life and build upon their independence with mobility aids.
Common mobility aids for disabled veterans include walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, and canes. Canes are lightweight and non-complex mobility aids for persons who require help with their balance, or for stability while they are walking. Crutches are effective when more support is needed, and are used by persons whose lower limbs have been injured or disabled. Walkers are larger mobility aids that assist in providing support for the upper body, and increased stability for the lower body.
While canes, crutches, and walkers are simple and non-costly items, veterans with greater disabilities may require wheelchairs. Wheelchairs range in cost and complexity and can be manual or electric, and are capable of providing complete mobility assistance for disabled veterans who cannot walk or stand independently or with the assistance of simple mobility devices.
More Complex Mobility Aids are Substantially More Costly
Beyond basic mobility aids and more complex manual or electric wheelchairs, there are also markedly more costly mobility aids, such as exoskeletons or prosthetic limbs. Prosthetic limbs are made to replace missing limbs, which allow a disabled veteran to perform daily tasks with a higher level of independence. Exoskeletons are wearable devices able to provide powered assistance to the legs of the user, which can allow them to stand and walk again.
Special Home Adaptation Grants Provide the Funding You Need
If your service-connected disability qualifies, you may be able to take advantage of disability housing grants offered by the VA. The purpose of the grants is to assist veterans in the purchase or alteration of a home to meet their needs, so that they are able to live more independently. Changes noted by the VA can include the installation of ramps for wheelchairs and other assistive devices, as well as the widening of doorways.
The term used by the VA is a Specially Adapted Housing grant, or an SAH grant, the money from which can be used to build, buy, or alter your current long-term home. To qualify for an SAH grant, the following must be true:
- You own your home, or will own your home, and
- You have a current qualifying service-connected disability
Service-connected disabilities that may qualify you for an SAH grant include:
- Blindness in both of your eyes, with 20/200 visual acuity or lower
- The loss, or loss of the use of, a lower leg along with residuals (lasting effects) of an organic or natural disease or injury
- The loss or loss of use of more than one limb
- Specific severe burns that result in disability
- The loss, or loss of use, of one lower extremity, meaning a foot or a leg, after September 11, 2001, which makes is to that you cannot balance or walk without the assistance of braces, canes, crutches, or a wheelchair
It is important to note that the VA clarifies that just 120 veterans and service members each fiscal year are able to qualify for an SAH grant based on the loss of one extremity following September 11, 2001. Fiscal years run from October 1 to September 30, and if you are unable to fit within the 120 of the particular fiscal year you applied, it may be possible to receive the benefit in a later year.
Your SAH grant can provide you with as high as $109,986 for the fiscal year 2023, the current maximum that is allowed for SAH grants.
Special Home Adaptation (SHA) Grants are Also Sometimes Available
To qualify for an SHA grant, you must be using the money provided to build, buy, or change your permanent home, which is one you plan to live in for an extended period of time. You also must meet the following two requirements:
- Either you or a member of your family owns or will own the home, and
- You have a current diagnosis of a service-connected disability
Service-connected disabilities that can qualify you for the SHA grant include:
- Some severe burns
- Particular respiratory or breathing injuries
- The loss, or the loss of the use of, both of your hands
For veterans who qualify for SHA grants, you may be eligible to receive up to $22,036 during fiscal year 2023, the maximum allowed for SHA grants.
SAH and SHA Grants Can Be Used Over Time
It is not necessary to use all of the SAH or SHA grant money in the year that you are approved. You’ll need to identify the adaptations you need, submit bids from your builder, and then you are able to use as much or as little of the grant you are approved for in a given year. When you do not use the complete amount of your SAH or SHA grant in a single year, you are able to use it in future years.
You can use the approved amounts The total maximum amount you are able to use in a given year will be based on the cost of construction. However, it is possible for you to be provided with up to the current total maximum amount for the last year that you use the grant.
To begin the process of collecting on your SHA or SAH grant, you’ll need to gather the necessary documents, evidence, and bids, and file VA Form 26-4555. Following your application you are able to check the status of your claim online, and the VA will send you a letter with their ultimate decision.
Does the VA Cover Costs for Adaptive Equipment?
In some instances, a veteran may qualify for a one-time payment for assistance in purchasing a specially equipped vehicle. To do so, you’ll need to fill out an Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment, VA Form 21-4502. If you qualify for coverage through this option, the VA will pay the seller of the equipment for your vehicle. This form is for a veteran seeking out a vehicle that meets their specific needs.
Adaptive equipment covered under VA Form 21-4502 can include:
- A specially equipped vehicle that allows you to drive despite limitations created by your disability
- Adaptive equipment to enable you to get in and out of your vehicle
These changes to the vehicle are meant to facilitate the veteran’s transportation and independence.
VA Automobile Allowance
The VA automobile allowance is available for veterans with a service-connected disability that impacts their driving. To be eligible for the VA automobile allowance, you must have a service-connected disability and at least one of the following must apply to your situation:
- You have experienced the loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both feet, or
- You have experienced the loss or permanent loss of use of one of your hands or both, or
- Your vision in both eyes is permanently decreased, with 20/200 vision or less in your better eye with glasses, or greater than 20/200 vision but with a visual field defect that results in the reduction of your peripheral vision to 20 degrees or lower in your better eye, or
- You have experienced a severe burn injury, or
- You have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or
- You have ankylosis in 1 or both of your knees or hips
This benefit provides the veteran with a one-time payment towards the purchase of a specially equipped vehicle. In some instances, one or more adaptive equipment grants to alter a vehicle so it has features such as power steering, brakes, seats, windows, or lift equipment to assist the disabled veteran get into or out of the vehicle.
The present rates for automobile disabled veteran allowances are:
- Automobile allowance – $24,115.12, paid once to help you purchase a vehicle when your service-connected disability prevents you from driving
- Clothing allowance – $968.52, available once each year, with this amount meant to help a disabled veterans replace any of their clothing that may be damaged as a result of a medication or device that is linked to their service-connected disability
- Medal of Honor pension – $1,619.34, paid monthly, if you received the Medal of Honor, you are eligible to receive an additional tax-free monthly payment
These amounts are meant to enable the disabled veteran to live and function as independently as possible with the assistance of home modifications and assistive technology. While achieving complete mobility or overcoming all symptoms may not be possible, these options available through the VA can help you and your family better function with your service-connected disabilities.
Connect with a VA Disability Lawyer for Help with Home Modification and Assistive Technology Coverage
The unique facts and circumstances of your service-connected disability will determine what VA benefits are available to you, and the evidence provided in your application will determine if you get them. To learn how our experienced VA disability lawyers can help you collect the full compensation you deserve, reach out to us by phone at 888-878-9350, or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.