Collins, Manchin Introduce Bill to Help Severely Disabled Veterans Purchase Adaptive Automobiles

The average cost of a new adaptive vehicle that disabled veterans need to drive safely and maintain their independence ranges from $40,000 to $65,000

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ remarks on the Senate floor.  Click HERE to download.

 

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced bipartisan legislation that would reduce the financial burden for severely disabled veterans who require special adaptive equipment to drive a motor vehicle.  The Advancing Uniform Transportation Opportunities (AUTO) for Veterans Act would make these veterans eligible to receive a grant to help purchase a new adaptive vehicle once every ten years, helping them to drive safely and maintain their independence.

 

“Our nation owes American veterans our deepest gratitude.  We must continue to honor that commitment to our veterans by supporting their needs, including those of disabled veterans who require adaptive modification of their vehicles long after they are discharged or retire from active duty,” said Senator Collins.  “One disabled veteran in Shirley, Maine, has had to purchase several adaptive vehicles since 1999, with each one lasting more than 250,000 miles.  He will soon need a new van that will cost him well over $50,000, which is more than he paid for his home.  The AUTO for Veterans Act is an important step in helping those who have served our nation so honorably and sacrificed so much for our freedom.  I urge all of our colleagues to join Senator Manchin and me in honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans.”

 

“Our paralyzed Veterans live with the constant reminder of their personal sacrifices made to keep their fellow Americans safe. They fought for our freedoms and deserve support here at home,” Senator Manchin said. “I am proud to introduce the bipartisan AUTO Act with Senator Collins to provide our paralyzed Veterans with a new vehicle grant every 10 years instead of the current program which provides one vehicle grant in their lifetime. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mission is especially intended to care for our paralyzed and disabled Veterans, and rural Veterans who live in states like West Virginia particularly rely on personal vehicles to live their lives. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this commonsense legislation to support these brave Veterans.”

 

“PVA is deeply grateful to Senator Collins and Senator Manchin for the introduction of the AUTO for Veterans Act of 2020," said David Zurfluh, U.S. Air Force Veteran and Paralyzed Veterans of America National President. "Access to an adapted vehicle is essential to the mobility and health of catastrophically disabled veterans who need a reliable means of transportation to get them to and from work, meet family obligations, and attend medical appointments. We owe the freedom adaptive vehicles provide to Veterans who were severely injured in the service of their country. PVA urges the Senate to act on this bill quickly so these veterans have means to procure safe and reliable transportation.”

 

The VA is currently authorized to provide eligible veterans with a one-time grant of approximately $21,400 to be used to purchase a new or used automobile and necessary adaptive equipment, such as specialized pedals or switches. The grant is often used together with the VA Special Adaptive Equipment Grants, which help veterans purchase adaptive equipment, such as powered lifts, for an existing automobile or van to make it safe for a veteran’s use.  The average cost to replace modified vehicles ranges from $40,000 to $65,000 when the vehicle is new and $21,000 to $35,000 when the vehicle is used.

 

Although veterans can receive multiple Special Adaptive Equipment Grants over the course of their lives, they are limited to a single grant to purchase a vehicle.  The current limitation fails to take into account that a disabled veteran will need more than one vehicle in his or her lifetime.  According to the Department of Transportation, the average useful life of a vehicle is 11.5 years, and a vehicle that has been modified structurally tends to have a shorter useful life. 

 

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