February 25, 2021

Manchin, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Help 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

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation that would reduce the financial burden for 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 Veterans have sacrificed so much to protect their fellow Americans and now it is our turn to support them after their years of selfless service. The AUTO for Veterans Act would provide our paralyzed Veterans with a new vehicle every 10 years instead of the current program which only provides one vehicle in their lifetime,” said Senator Manchin.  “This commonsense legislation will be especially important for the Veterans who live in more rural states such as West Virginia and rely on personal vehicles to go about their daily lives. I’m proud to work with Senator Collins on this important bipartisan legislation and urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help make life easier for our paralyzed and disabled Veterans.”

“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.”

"PVA applauds Senator Collins and Senator Manchin for reintroducing the Advancing Uniform Transportation Opportunities (AUTO) for Veterans Act,” said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director of Government Relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). “This bill would help veterans preserve the freedom and independence that adapted vehicles provide them, ensuring they are able to travel safely to and from work, medical appointments, and family obligations."

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 $20,000 to $80,000 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 11.8 years, and a vehicle that has been modified structurally tends to have a shorter useful life.