Transportation and Community

The VA’s Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) ensures veterans have access to health care by providing transportation for veterans to these appointments. In general, the program provides transportation for veterans who are eligible for VA health care and have medical appointments. However, some VA medical centers give priority to specific categories of veterans such as those who have a disability. Nearly all of the vehicles the VA uses for the VTS program are wheelchair accessible.

To access the VTS, contact the local VA medical center your veteran uses and ask to speak with a VTS representative. Not all locations have the VTS program. A full list of locations is available on the VA website. Each VTS location listing includes information regarding the program’s eligibility and the process for scheduling a ride.

For veterans who live in locations not served by the VTS, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) transportation program might be an option. The DAV provides free transportation for veterans who need access to VA medical care. Most of these vehicles, however, are not wheelchair accessible. For more information, contact the nearest DAV hospital service coordinator.

The VA provides eligible veterans with mileage and related travel expense reimbursement if they are traveling in connection with VA medical care.

Veterans Who Qualify for Beneficiary Travel

  • Those rated at least 30-percent service-connected disabled by VA
  • Those who are traveling for treatment of a VA service-connected condition
  • Those who are receiving a VA pension
  • Those whose income does not exceed the maximum annual VA pension rate
  • Those who are traveling for VA compensation or pension examinations

The VA also will provide travel for someone who needs to accompany the veteran when a VA medical provider determines it is beneficial for a veteran’s health. A VA-approved family caregiver does not need such a determination. In addition, the VA will provide travel for a veteran’s immediate family members, legal guardian, or someone in the household where the veteran lives if the travel is related to consultation, professional counseling, training, or mental health services regarding a veteran receiving VA care for a service-connected disability. The VA also will provide travel reimbursement for a veteran’s immediate family member if he or she is traveling because of bereavement counseling for a veteran who died while on active duty.

Scheduled travel to VA medical appointments is reimbursed at $ .415 a mile. There is a deductible of $3 one way or $6 round-trip, but there is a monthly cap of $18 on the deductibles. Once that amount is reached, travel for the rest of the month is completely reimbursable. The deductible may be waived in certain circumstances. Tolls to travel on roads, bridges, and tunnels also may be reimbursed. The VA may also reimburse for the cost of meals and lodging. Receipts are required for expenses other than mileage.

The application for beneficiary travel may be made in person at the VA facility’s beneficiary travel office (if there is an office at the facility) or in writing. It must be made within 30 calendar days of the completion of the trip. If a veteran requests beneficiary travel after receiving care, the VA will only provide round-trip payment if the travel was as the result of care previously scheduled with VA prior to arrival or the travel was because of an emergency. If the travel was not for either of these reasons, the VA will provide payment for a return trip if care was provided upon arrival.

Veterans also might be eligible for special mode transportation, including transportation by an ambulance, a wheelchair-accessible van, or another similar vehicle. Veterans must be eligible for beneficiary travel and have a medical need for this type of vehicle. Unless there is an emergency, travel by special mode must be authorized in advance. If traveling by special mode because of an emergency, an application for beneficiary travel will be allowed if submitted within 30 calendar days.

Veterans and servicemembers might be eligible for special programs through their local public transportation authority that might make travel easier. For example, free or reduced transit fares might be available to those living with disabilities. The Community Transportation Association of America has developed a chart that provides information about reduced or free travel fares that might be available in your community.

Learning how to use public transportation, particularly after acquiring a disability, can be difficult. Travel trainers teach individuals how to navigate public transportation. The Association of Travel Instruction can connect you with a trained instructor in your area.

In addition to providing different fare options, local transit authorities are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide paratransit services for people with disabilities, including disabled veterans or servicemembers, who are unable to use the normal bus or train service. Paratransit service typically is reserved in advance and provides more flexible pickup and drop-off service to better meet the needs of travelers with disabilities. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund has developed an in depth document to help guide eligible individuals through the process of applying for and receiving this service.

Veterans and servicemembers who are eligible for home modification under the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH), Special Housing Adaptation (SHA), or Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) programs also will likely be eligible for VA’s Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) program. The HISA program can provide an additional source of funds for needed home modifications for these veterans. The HISA grant provides veterans and servicemembers with service-connected disabilities with $6,800 for a home modification. The HISA grant may be used in conjunction with either the SAH or SHA grants or separately.

Housing modifications provided through the HISA grant must improve access to the home of the servicemember or veteran for whom you care because of a disability or to allow for him or her to receive needed treatment. Approved home modifications include making a home’s entrance accessible, improving access to the home’s kitchen or bathroom, adding handrails, modifying countertops and electrical outlets and switches to allow improved access, and improving plumbing/electrical work for individuals receiving dialysis.

To receive a HISA grant, a veteran or servicemember must a have a prescription for the home modification because the HISA program is a VHA program. The prescription must include the modifications needed, the medical justification, and the veteran’s contact information.

There are two important distinctions between the HISA program and VA’s SAH, SHA, and TRA grants. First, a veteran does not have to have a service-connected disability to receive a HISA grant. Veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system but are not service-connected are eligible for $2,000 for home modifications. Second, this grant is available to veterans or servicemembers who are renters.

Complete VA Form 10-0103, Veterans Application for Assistance in Acquiring Home Improvement and Structural Alternations:

  • If the servicemember or veteran for whom you care does not own the home that needs to be modified (rents or leases), get written permission from the property’s owner.
  • Obtain quotes from at least three contractors, with
    • the contractor’s contact information;
    • the servicemember or veteran’s contact information;
    • plans and drawings for the modification;
    • an itemized list of the materials, cost, and labor;
    • all required permits; and
    • a picture of the location where the work will take place.

Resources:
VA Home Loans
VA Prosthetics
VHA Handbook

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