Make a Home Accessible With Department of Veterans Affairs Programs
If you're disabled, it is important to feel comfortable at home. Depending on your unique needs, modifications such as a wheelchair ramp, wider doorways or even a special doorbell can make a big difference in your accessibility at home. The Department of Veterans Affairs promotes independent living for disabled veterans through several programs. Based on your disability, you may be eligible for a grant to make modifications to your home.
Here are a few possibilities to consider.
The Specially Adapted Housing Program
This program gives grants to veterans or service members with specific service-connected disabilities to build an adapted home or update an existing home to meet their disability-related needs. After your eligibility is determined, a Specially Adapted Housing agent will help you with your application and necessary documents. You may get advice on:
- House plans
- Buildable lots
- Adaptive features
- Qualified architects and builders
There are two types of grants administered by VA under this program.
Specially Adapted Housing Grants
These grants are available to disabled veterans or service members entitled to receive compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability because of one of the following:
- Loss or loss of use of both legs that prevents movement without the aid of braces, crutches, canes or a wheelchair
- Blindness in both eyes (having only light perception), plus loss or loss of use of one leg
- Loss or loss of use of one leg, together with residuals of organic disease or injury, or the loss or loss of use of one arm; these losses must affect balance or forward motion so much that they prevent movement without the aid of braces, crutches, canes or a wheelchair
- The loss or loss of use of both arms, preventing use of the arms at or above the elbows
- Severe burn injuries
Under this entitlement, a grant may be available to veterans and service members to adapt a home to meet their special needs. Specially Adapted Housing Grants:
- Provide up to 50 percent of the veteran's cost of an adapted house, land and allowable expenses, but may not exceed the current maximum grant amount of $70,465 (as of February 2015)
- May be used to help build, buy or adapt an existing home or reduce the debt owed on a home that's already adapted
- May be used up to three times, as long as the total grants stay within the current limit
A temporary grant — called Temporary Residence Adaptations grants, or TRA — may be available to veterans who are or will be temporarily living in a home owned by a family member. The TRA grants are:
- Limited to a maximum amount of $30,934
- Counted as one of the three total uses of the Specially Adapted Housing Grant
Special Housing Adaptation Grants
These grants are available to veterans or service members entitled to compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability because of one of the following:
- Blindness in both eyes, with 5/200 visual acuity or less
- Anatomical loss or loss of use of both hands
- Severe burn injuries
- Severe respiratory ailments
An eligible veteran or service member may receive a VA grant for the actual cost to adapt a house or for the appraised market value of necessary adapted features already in a house when it was purchased, up to the maximum grant amount of $14,093 (as of February 2015). Special Housing Adaptations grants:
- May be used up to three times, as long as the total grants don't exceed the current limit
- Require that the home to be adapted be owned by the veteran or by a member of the veteran's family, but the veteran must intend to continue living there
Temporary Residence Adaptations grants may also be available in these cases. The TRA grants are:
- Limited up to a maximum amount of $5,523
- Counted as one of the three total uses of the Special Housing Adaptation grant
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Independent Living Services
The VA's Independent Living Services are for veterans who can't follow their employment goals because of their severe service-connected disabilities. The services:
- Provide housing-related benefits
- Include adaptations that are required to improve independence in daily living
- Can be combined with the Specially Adapted Housing Grant if the veteran is eligible
Visit VA's Independent Living Services page for more information.
Veterans Health Administration Home Improvements and Structural Alterations grants
This program provides medically necessary improvements and structural alterations to veterans and service members' primary residence and is:
- Administered under the Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service
- Limited to the improvement and structural alterations necessary to assure continuation of treatment and provide access to the home or to essential restroom facilities
- Available to veterans with or without the service-connected rating
The lifetime benefit is $6,800 for eligible veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 50 percent or more, or $2,000 lifetime benefit for eligible veterans with non-service-connected disabilities, but who receive health care from VA with non-SC disabilities rated less than 50 percent.
Contact the prosthetics office at your nearest VA Medical Center, or visit VA's Home Improvements and Structural Alterations page.
Financial assistance and technical advice are also available from many other government and nongovernment organizations. Be sure to research your eligibility for assistance from all sources to maximize your benefits compensation.