VA offers housing grants to veterans whose disabilities would make it difficult to enjoy a barrier-free life in a home that is not outfitted to their needs. A veteran’s level of disability may require any number of special accommodations within a home to allow them to live independently, or more independently than could be expected in a typical home. Such improvements might include a wheelchair ramp, lowered countertops, and widened doorways.
Veterans have four options available through VA to finance improvements or modifications to their homes. Eligibility is largely determined by the matter of who owns the home, the severity of the veteran’s disability, and the circumstances of the veteran’s discharge. The first two conditions may vary between grants, but for all three, it is generally accepted that a veteran’s discharge be other than dishonorable.
The different grants are specifically written with certain situations in mind, so that veterans are able to build, remodel, or find the adapted housing they need to accommodate their disability and begin to live more independently.
Following are the special grants available to veterans, along with eligibility requirements needed for you to be able to pursue them.
Special Adaptive Housing Grants
Special Adaptive House (SAH) grant was created to help veterans buy, improve upon, or build a longtime permanent home that they own themselves. Disabilities must be quite severe to be eligible for this grant, as noted below, and it is important to know that only 120 veterans per fiscal year can qualify for the grant based on the loss of at least one extremity after September 11, 2001. This rule was stipulated by Congress, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to receive the grant if the cap is hit during the year you file your claim. It is possible for you to qualify one year and receive the grant later.
To be eligible for an SAH, veterans must satisfy two requirements:
- The veterans owns or will own a permanent home, and
- The veteran has a qualifying, service-connected disability, of which any of the following conditions qualifies:
- The loss or loss of use of more than one limb
- The loss or loss of use of a lower leg along with the residuals (lasting effects) of an organic (natural) disease or injury
- Blindness in both eyes (with 20/200 visual acuity or less)
- Certain severe burns
- The loss, or loss of use, of one lower extremity (foot or leg) after September 11, 2001, which makes it so you can’t balance or walk without the help of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair
As for funding, how much will an SAH grant get you? If you qualify, it can be worth up to $101,754 for fiscal year 2022, but take note that this amount may be subject to adjustment due to inflation each year. One other important note is that you do not need to spend the maximum amount of an SAH grant all at one time. You are allowed to use funds from your SAH grant 6 times over your lifetime to continue making adjustments as needed.
Special Home Adaptation Grants
Next after the SAH grant is the special home adaptation (SHA) grant, which is available to veterans who want to help buy, improve upon, or adapt a permanent home. Eligibility requirements are lower than what is required for an SAH grant, which means you don’t need to worry about annual caps. The available funds are correspondingly lower, too, but will still help you make the necessary changes to aid your independent lifestyle. This will make this grant more accessible to a wider group of veterans, so if you are ineligible for an SAH grant, this is the next benefit to look at.
To qualify for an SHA grant, you must meet the following criteria:
- You or a family member own or will own the home, and
- You have a qualifying, service-connected disability, which may be any of the following:
- The loss or loss of use of both hands
- Certain severe burns
- Certain respiratory or breathing injuries
For those who qualify, an SHA grant can get you a maximum award of $20,387. That amount is for fiscal year 2022, and as noted above, it may be subject to adjustment in the future. Now, for a SHA grant, must you use all of the funds at once? No. Just like with the SAH grant above, you can use money from a SHA grant 6 times over your lifetime. As VA states, you can use as much or as little as you like, bearing in mind the adaptations you need and the bid from your builder.
VA notes that it may adjust the total maximum amount available from each grant each year based on the cost of construction. Following this rule, VA says you can use up to the currently stipulated maximum amount for the last year that you use the grant.
Temporary Residence Adaptation Grants
Perhaps a veteran doesn’t own a home, but also doesn’t plan to live in that home for a long time. Is it possible to seek VA assistance to make modifications to that home? Yes. That is just what temporary residence adaptation (TRA) grants are for. These grants are available to veterans who would otherwise qualify for either a SAH or a SHA grant, but who do not own their home and do not intend to stay there for long.
So to qualify for a TRA grant, both of the following criteria must be met:
- You qualify for a SAH or SHA grant, specifically in regards to the degree of your disability, and
- You are living temporarily in a family member’s home that needs changes to meet your needs (you do not need to own the home)
Based on this special circumstance, you may be looking at one of two different levels of funds available to you. For instance, If you would otherwise qualify for an SAH grant based on your degree of disability, you can get up to $40,983 through the TRA grant. If, however, you would qualify for an SHA grant, the TRA grant can get $7,318. Once again, these figures are for fiscal year 2022 and are subject to adjustment.
How to Apply for SAH, SHA, and TRA Grants
Veterans interested in accessing any of the above benefits will need to fill out Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant (VA Form 26-4555) and mail it to their nearest regional loan center.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Grants for Housing Adaptation Assistance
These grants, known as VR&E grants, are available to help with home modifications to veterans who meet one of the following criteria:
- They are unable to work due to the effects of their service connected disabilities, or
- They require adaptations to achieve a vocational goal
This benefit is limited specifically to veterans who need to improve independence at home and/or in the community. It can grant you up to $93,356 as part of your rehabilitation program. To apply, you must fill out VA Form 20-1900.
Home Improvements and Structural Alterations
SAH, SHA, and TRA grants are not the only avenues to explore when seeking VA assistance for home modifications. Home improvements and structural alterations (HISA) benefits are meant to provide funds for “medically necessary improvements and structural alterations” to a veterans primary residence for the following purposes:
- Allowing entrance to or exit from the primary residence
- Use of essential lavatory and sanitary facilities (e.g. roll in showers)
- Allowing accessibility to kitchen or bathroom sinks or counters (e.g. lowering counters/sinks)
- Improving entrance paths or driveways in immediate area of the home to facilitate access to the home through construction of permanent ramping
- Improving plumbing or electrical systems made necessary due to installation of home medical equipment
Qualified veterans and service members may be eligible for up to a $6,800 lifetime benefit You may qualify for up to a lifetime benefit of $6,800 if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You have a service-connected disability, or
- You have a non-service-connected condition with a 50% rating or more service connected
Veterans who have a non-service connected disability may also qualify for a HISA benefit equalling up to a $2,000 lifetime benefit.
There are several exclusions listed by VA for HISA benefits. VA specifically mentions that non-essential alterations do not qualify for assistance, such as walkways to exterior buildings, spas, hot tubs, or jacuzzis, exterior decking, or new construction. The same exclusion applies to removable equipment or appliances like portable ramps, porch lifts, and stair guides, home security systems, and repairs that are a part of routine maintenance of your residence.
To apply for a HISA benefit, your application must include the following:
- Prescription written or approved by a VA physician which describes the prescribed project and the medical diagnosis or medical justification
- Filled-out VA Form 10-0103
- For renters: a signed and notarized statement from the owner authorizing the described alterations
- Itemized estimate of costs
- Color photograph of the unimproved area
Assistance with your claim
Modifications to your home may be crucial to achieving a barrier-free, independent lifestyle. Your very livelihood may depend upon it, too. That’s why we recommend that if you are eligible for any of these benefits, you apply for them. And that if you have any problem filing application, or any other claim for disability benefits, that you work with us at VA Disability Group to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Please call us at 844-VET-LAWS or contact us through our website to get the benefits you need to live independently.