Veterans and active service members who require special adaptive equipment to their motor vehicles can now take advantage of expanded benefits through VA thanks to the passage in early 2023 of a new law, the Advancing Uniform Transportation Opportunities For Veterans (AUTO) Act.
The AUTO Act introduces a new grant program that allows veterans access to funds throughout their lifetime to purchase vehicles that are specially adapted to their needs. This new benefit builds upon an existing program that offer only a one-time, single-use grant meant to be put toward the purchase a modified vehicle. This once forced veterans to try getting the most out of their adapted vehicles by running them into the ground, or—since modified vehicles may cost upwards of $80,000—spend significant amounts of their own money to pay for a new vehicle to replace their old one.
Thanks to this new grant program, upgrading to newer, modified vehicle will be far more possible and affordable to veterans and service members. This is particularly useful since Department of Transportation estimates that most motor vehicles only have an average usable lifespan of 11.8 years, and that specially modified vehicles tend to last even less than that.
AUTO Act Benefits and Eligibility
Under the new rules created by the AUTO Act, eligible active service members and veterans who have a service-connected disability that prevents them from driving may apply for a grant once every ten years to help buy a new vehicle that is specially adapted to their needs. Adaptations include power steering, specialized switches and pedals, brakes, seats, windows, or lifts.
One caveat to this new benefit is that it has a phase-in period. First off, veterans who have never before used a VA vehicle grant are eligible immediately, and you may apply for a new grant every 10 years. The same applies to veterans who have used a VA vehicle grant, but not within the last 30 years. Only if you have used a VA vehicle grant, and it’s been fewer than 30 years since it was granted, will you be ineligible for a new grant. If this applies to you, you must wait until 30 years have passed since your last grant before you an apply for a new one.
Eligibility is limited to active service members and veterans with at least one of the following service-connected disabilities which impairs their ability to drive in an unmodified vehicle:
- You have loss, or permanent loss of use, of 1 or both feet, or
- You have loss, or permanent loss of use, of 1 or both hands, or
- You have permanent decreased vision in both eyes: 20/200 vision or less in your better eye with glasses, or greater than 20/200 vision but with a visual field defect that has reduced your peripheral vision to 20 degrees or less in your better eye, or
- You have a severe burn injury, or
- You have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or
- You have ankylosis in 1 or both knees or hips
Assistance With Your Claim
If you need assistance with a claim or an appeal related to monthly disability compensation or other VA benefits, VA Disability Group PLLC is ready to help. Call us at 844-VET-LAWS or contact us online to get the professional assistance and benefits you deserve.