Signed into law in early 2023, the Advancing Uniform Transportation Opportunities for Veterans (AUTO) Act helps disabled veterans offset the costs of special adaptations for their disabilities of their cars, trucks, or vans. The Act authorizes the VA to pay for vehicle adaptations such as lifts, power steering, modified doors, wheelchair modifications, and so on. Previously the VA offered a one-time, single use grant, but under the AUTO Act, those veterans with service-connected disabilities who need a specially adapted vehicle are eligible for multiple grants over their lifetimes.
Thanks to bipartisan support in Congress, the Act allows disabled veterans to apply for a VA automobile grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs once every ten years. But there is a phase-in period. Those who have used a VA vehicle grant before but have not done so in the past 30 years are eligible for another grant. Those who have not used the grant yet are eligible for one every 10 years after receiving the first one. Under the old program, future purchases were not funded; veterans had to pay for all subsequent upgrades or replacement vehicles out of their own pockets.
Because a vehicle modified to meet the needs of veterans with disabilities can easily cost as much as $80,000 the new AUTO Act is a critical benefit for them, especially when you consider that the average lifespan of these vehicles is just about a decade long. Over a lifetime the cost of specially adapted vehicles can be burdensome for veterans who have already given so much to their country.
Who is eligible?
According to va.gov you may be eligible for this disability benefit “if you have a disability that’s related to your service (called a service-connected disability) and that includes at least one of these conditions. At least one of these must be true for you:
- You have loss, or permanent loss of use, of 1 or both feet, or
- You have loss, or permanent loss of use, of 1 or both hands, or
- You have permanent decreased vision in both eyes: 20/200 vision or less in your better eye with glasses, or greater than 20/200 vision but with a visual field defect that has reduced your peripheral vision to 20 degrees or less in your better eye, or
- You have a severe burn injury, or
- You have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or
- You have ankylosis in 1 or both knees or hips
Note: This qualifies you for an adaptive-equipment grant only
- Service members.
How do you get these benefits?
The VA says “you’ll need to file a claim for disability compensation and get our [the VA’s] approval before buying a vehicle or adaptive equipment. You can apply for—and use—either grant before or after military discharge.
When you file, you’ll need to show that your disability is service connected or treated as if service connected under 38 U.S.C. 1151. (Learn more about 38 U.S.C. 1151.)
For the one-time payment to help you buy a specially equipped vehicle
- You’ll need to fill out an Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment (VA Form 21-4502).
Get VA Form 21-4502 to download
- We’ll pay the vehicle’s seller directly.
For the adaptive-equipment grant
- If you qualify for adaptive equipment only, you’ll need to fill out an Application for Adaptive Equipment—Motor Vehicle (VA Form 10-1394).
Get VA Form 10-1394 to download
- We [the VA] may pay you, or may pay the equipment seller directly.”
Our accredited VA disability attorneys are in your corner.
If you are considering applying for VA disability benefits or you have been turned down for benefits or you are attempting to get a rating increase, our law firm can give you a free evaluation of your situation. If you choose to hire us, we’ll fight to ensure you get the fairest possible rating and we only get paid if you win your case. Call (402) 933-5405 or email us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your specific situation.