Meuser Leads Bipartisan Bill to Expand Access to Transportation for Disabled Veterans
WASHINGTON — Congressmen Dan Meuser (R-PA) and Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced this week H.R. 5761, the Advancing Uniform Transportation Opportunities (AUTO) for Veterans Act. This bipartisan legislation would increase access to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Automobile Grant, which is used by our nation’s most severely disabled veterans—often amputees or paralyzed—to purchase a vehicle.
This bill would help lessen a financial burden and expand access to transportation for disabled veterans by allowing qualifying veterans to receive an additional Automobile Grant, every ten years. Currently, veterans are only able to receive the grant once-per-lifetime. In fiscal year 2020, an estimated 2,425 veterans will use this benefit, which is valued at $21,488.29 per grant.
This grant is regularly used in tandem with the Special Adaptive Equipment Grants, which allow veterans to make necessary modifications to their vehicle, such as power steering and lift equipment, to accommodate their disability. Although veterans can only receive a one-time allowance toward the purchase of a vehicle, they can access adaptive equipment grants multiple times. This legislation would help bring parity to these two important programs.
“Veterans, especially those in rural communities, face transportation challenges. Expanding the VA’s Automobile Grant is a meaningful step for the men and women who made great sacrifices in service to our nation,” said Meuser. “We must do all we can to help ensure these veterans with catastrophic injuries can lead fulfilling lives. Access to safe, reliable transportation is essential to their health and wellness.”
“I am proud to champion this legislation to expand the VA’s Automobile Grant Program so we can further support these Veterans who have sacrificed so much for our county,” said Brindisi. “This bipartisan bill will help these Veterans continue to go to work, attend school, visit family, and maintain a life of mobility. I will continue to work to ensure that the men and women who bravely fought for our freedoms receive the support they have earned.”
"Veterans with catastrophic disabilities face many barriers to their independence,” said David Zurfluh, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. "The Auto for Veterans Act will remove one of those barriers and will ensure that catastrophically disabled veterans are able to purchase additional vehicles in their lifetime that will meet their unique needs and protect their ability to safely travel for health care, work, and their families. We thank Rep. Meuser and Rep. Brindisi for introducing this important legislation."
The average age of light vehicles in the United States in 2019 was 11.8 years, but this is often less for structurally modified vehicles. To qualify for the grant, a veteran must have one of the following service-connected disabilities:
- Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both feet
- Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands
- Permanent vision impairment in both eyes to a certain degree
- Severe burn injury
- Diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
More information on the VA’s Automobile Grant can be found here.
Bill text can be found here.