Retired Sergeant Neil Williams has owned several cars over the last 25 years, all of which have been modified to fit his wheelchair and be driven manually.
Williams, the first car to be paralyzed due to combat injuries in Vietnam, used a one-time grant from the Veterans Administration and drove over 250,000 miles before it broke down.
Williams purchased a subsequent vehicle, but had to pay $50,000 for a modern van because the VA program only allowed one purchase in a veteran’s lifetime.
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A new law signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday changed that requirement. Now, 73-year-old Williams and other disabled veterans who need a modified vehicle to get around are eligible for auto subsidies from his VA every ten years.
Under the Promotion of Uniform Transportation Opportunities for Veterans, or AUTO, Act, veterans who have not received a grant in the past 30 years are eligible for another grant. After that, veterans are eligible every 10 years.
“I have run out of several cars. This law allows veterans with mobility problems to get medical care and live a normal daily life otherwise they would not have been able to do it on their own. I think so,” Williams said in an interview. From his home in rural Maine he at Military.com.
Before the law was passed, the VA was authorized to make multiple grants to veterans for special adaptation equipment, but was limited to one grant for vehicle purchases. . VA’s program covers new or used vehicles for veterans with service-related disabilities who need transportation to reach medical appointments and treatments, vocational rehabilitation, or certain types of treatment .
The 2022 grant amount was $22,356. The economic impact of transportation needs is significant, as the average cost to replace a refurbished vehicle with a new one ranges from $20,000 to $80,000 and the average life span of vans and cars is about 12 years.
“This bill will help veterans maintain the freedom and independence that adaptive vehicles provide, allowing them to safely move between jobs, medical appointments and family obligations,” said Heather Ansley, Paralyzed Veterans of The United States said in a press statement on Monday.
The bill was a bipartisan effort by Senator Susan Collins (Republican of Maine) and Senator Joe Manchin (DW.V.). Williams worked with Collins to draft the bill.
“We honor our commitment to our veterans by supporting their needs, including those who require vehicle adaptations long after they are retired from active service,” Collins said at a press conference. I have to continue,” he said.
“Our veterans have made great sacrifices to protect our great country, and it is our duty to look after them when they return home,” Manchin said in the press on Monday. mentioned in the release.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill’s total cost from 2022 to 2032 at $43 million.
The new law also includes provisions allowing the VA to pay for vehicle modifications for medical services such as van lifts, raised doors and roofs, air conditioning, and wheelchair anchorages.
The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Dan Mauser (R-Pa.) and Rep. David Trone (D-Maryland).
Williams said the legislation would have enormous benefits for young veterans and those living in rural areas throughout their lives.
“[Vets in rural areas] I have to travel far to get medical care at the VA. The miles really add up,” Williams said.
— Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.
Related: Severely Disabled Veterans Eligible for Larger Adaptive Housing Subsidies
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