Financial Assistance Options for Adaptive Driving
Financial Assistance Options for Adaptive Driving

Categories: Community Life, Transportation

Photograph of a man in a wheelchair, with a woman sitting on his lap, and a van with a ramp in the backgroundBy Guest Blogger Chris Miller, Director of Interactive Marketing, The Mobility Resource

Americans love their wheels. Whether it’s a leisurely drive through a beautiful countryside, hitting the highway for a quick get-away or simply going to work, people look forward to the freedom of mobility. Many individuals with disabilities, however, require varying types of vehicle adaptions to enjoy that sense of freedom. Unfortunately, they often face prohibitive costs when it comes to purchasing the proper equipment for their transportation needs.

The good news is that funding assistance to purchase new adaptive vehicles or to retrofit existing vehicles is becoming increasingly available. Through these programs, people with disabilities have access to rebates and incentives for new vehicles adapted for their specific needs. In some cases, assistance is available for adaptive equipment installed through upfitters – vehicle modifiers or adaptive equipment installers – who will ensure vehicles are adjusted to suit individual needs and are compliant with federal and state guidelines.  Adaptations can include driving devices and equipment, hoists and carriers, seat modifications and power seats, ramps and running boards and other necessary equipment.

Whether you prefer vans or sedans, trucks, SUVs or crossovers, there are a variety of government programs and automaker rebates, as well as private and association-based funds, that can make adaptive mobility equipment more accessible and affordable.

Government Programs

  • Medicaid: Medicaid is a jointly administered federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources. Medicaid benefits differ by each state, but Medicaid usually offers benefits not normally covered by Medicare. Most state Medicaid agencies do not have an exclusive list of covered medical equipment.  Instead, any medical equipment, including newer technologies, is approved on a case-by-case basis when a request for funding is presented through a prior approval process.  After being placed on a Medicaid Waiver list, Medicaid may pay for adaptive equipment. A list of Medicaid state offices is available at http://www.medicaid.gov/
  • Medicare:  Medicare is a federal program, but Medicare health plans are offered through private companies that contract with Medicare to provide Part A and Part B benefits to people enrolled in Medicare. Part A is hospital insurance, while Part B covers doctors and outpatient services, and some medical devices based on medical necessity.  In some instances Medicare will pay for adaptive equipment following a specialty evaluation performed by a qualified practitioner. For more information, call 1-800-633-4227.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI eligibility and payment amounts are based on income and other resources. SSI offers a Plan to Achieve Self-Support program, or PASS, which helps those with disabilities pay for items or services needed to achieve a specific employment goal – to ultimately return to work. For more information, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/wi/pass.htm.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Often sales-tax exemptions on equipment purchases and other out-of-pocket costs can qualify for tax deductions as medical expenses. If an adaptation qualifies as a medical necessity, it can be deducted from federal taxes. Contact a tax adviser or get literature from the IRS that outlines the tax code for medical equipment by calling 1-800-829-1040 and asking for publications with extensions 3966, 907 and 502.

State Programs

  • Some State Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab) Agencies may be able to assist with the costs associated with purchasing an adaptive vehicle (or adding adaptive equipment to an existing one) if the vehicle is necessary in order for a person to get to and from work. For more information, contact your state’s department of vocational rehabilitation.
  • Many nonprofit organizations offer programs that provide assistance paying for adaptive vehicles or vehicle modifications, especially if the vehicle is necessary in order to meet an individual’s work-related transportation needs. These programs include Pennsylvania’s “Ways to Work” program and Otsego County, NY’s “Wheels to Work” program. To learn more, visit Disability.gov or read the fact sheet, “Car Ownership Programs for Low-Income Earners”.

For Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a grant enabling veterans and service members to purchase a new or used automobile to accommodate certain disabilities that resulted from an injury or disease incurred or aggravated during active military service.  There are two components of the grant, each requiring a separate form, but some veterans could be eligible for both:

  • An automobile grant is paid directly to the seller of the automobile for up to $11,000 and is available once in the service member’s lifetime. Veterans who qualify for the automobile grant may also qualify for the adaptive equipment grant.
  • An adaptive equipment grant includes, but is not limited to, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seats and special equipment necessary to assist the eligible person into and out of the vehicle.  The adaptive equipment grant may be paid more than once, and it may be paid to either the seller or the veteran.

For more information on this program, call 1-800-827-1000 or read the VA’s “Automobile and Special Adaptive Equipment Grants” fact sheet.

Automakers Rebate Programs

A number of automobile makers are stepping up to provide persons with disabilities a wide range of rebates and incentive programs. Many of these programs cover not only new and leased vehicles, but also third-party adaptive equipment installation.  Below is an overview of some programs from auto manufacturers offering rebates or reimbursements for people who require adaptive equipment.

  • Daimler Chrysler Corporation: buy or lease any new 2010, 2011 or 2012 Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram or Fiat vehicle from a participating dealership or FIAT studio, and Chrysler will provide cash reimbursement to help reduce the cost of installing the adaptive driver or passenger equipment on the vehicle. Leased vehicles must be leased for a minimum of 12 months to be eligible.
  • Ford Motor Company: the Ford Mobility Motoring adaptive equipment reimbursement offers up to $1,000, or up to $200 for alert hearing devices, lumbar support or running boards and is available on any new Ford or Lincoln vehicle purchased or leased from a U.S. Ford or Lincoln dealer during the program period. Maximum reimbursement per vehicle is $1,000. Major structural vehicle modifications to accommodate the installation of wheelchair lift or ramp must be completed by a Ford Authorized Qualified Vehicle Modifier to be eligible for reimbursement.
  • General Motors Corporation: through the GM Mobility Reimbursement Program, new vehicle purchasers/lessees who install eligible adaptive mobility equipment on their new Chevrolet, Buick or GMC vehicles can receive up to a $1,000 reimbursement for the cost of the equipment. Also, you can get two extra years of standard OnStar® service at no additional cost on all 2011–2013 Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles equipped with OnStar.
  • Volkswagen: Volkswagen will provide up to $1,000 toward the purchase and installation of lift equipment, carriers, hand controls, pedal extensions or other assistance equipment on any eligible model of new and unused Volkswagen models.
  • Audi: Audi offers $1,500 in assistance for hand controls or other approved assistance devices to anyone who purchases or leases a new Audi or CPO Audi vehicle. Contact an adaptive equipment retailer of your choice for information concerning the purchase and installation of such equipment. All payments will be made directly to the Audi owner approximately four weeks after submission to Audi.
  • Toyota: the Toyota Mobility Assistance Program provides cash reimbursement of up to $1,000 of the cost of any aftermarket adaptive equipment or conversion, for drivers and/or passengers, when installed on any eligible purchased or leased new Toyota vehicle within 12 months of vehicle purchase or lease. The cash reimbursement will be provided for the exact cost to purchase and install qualifying adaptive driving or passenger equipment for transporting persons with physical disabilities. The program also applies to purchasers of the Toyota Factory Installed Auto Access Seat, where the full $1,000 cash reimbursement will be paid directly to you. Only vehicles sold or leased and delivered to a retail customer by an authorized Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc. dealer are eligible under this program.

And the list goes on…

In addition to those above, there are myriad funding opportunities available through trade organizations, nonprofit entities and other private sources. The most comprehensive listing of these entities can be found at The Mobility Resource handicap van financial aid directory (The Mobility Resource does not sponsor or endorse any organizations exclusively). Search for assistance by state by visiting http://www.themobilityresource.com/financial-aid/financial-aid-map-portal.

For anyone who enjoys the freedom of mobility and requires vehicle modifications or adaptive products, seeking out the appropriate funding opportunities for your individual needs might take a little time, but it could pay off in years of comfortable mobility.

Chris Miller is the director of interactive marketing for The Mobility Resource. Born with a mild case of muscular dystrophy, he is an advocate for disability rights and mobility freedom. His team has worked closely with several government agencies, non-profits and associations to make it easier for people with physical disabilities to acquire mobility freedom. A graduate of The University of Akron, he holds a bachelor of arts in public relations and organizational communication.

Chris will be attending the National Forum on Disability Issues with his team on September 28 and will serve as a member of the media panel. During this event, teams from both presidential campaigns will discuss their plans for issues surrounding the disability community.  Do you have a question for a candidate? Please send it to cmiller@themobilityresource.com

 

 

14 Responses to Financial Assistance Options for Adaptive Driving

  1. Teri says:

    My son, who does not have use of his arms, got his driving permit the other day. We have been out twice and he does ok. Turning right is harder for him than turning left, but he gets very discouraged because he thinks he will not be able to drive. He is a good kid with a GPA of 4.4 and just competed in state finals for swimming, winning 3 gold and 1 silver. So I really hate to see him give up before he knows what there is out there for him to be successful in driving. I am a single parent who is a veteran so I don’t really bring in a big paycheck. What programs are out there that could help us? I know he can do it and it would help bring up his confidence in himself. Thank you! Teri

  2. Patrick R. B. says:

    Hello my name is Patrick and I am a bilateral amputee. Can you give me some advice on trying to get some financial assistance to help pay for the hand controls that I need to have installed on my truck? I live in Georgia and I don’t know where to start. I would be truly grateful for your help. Thank you!

  3. Julie R. says:

    Hello, I am a mother of a 23 year old daughter who was born with Spina Bifida/Hydrocephalus. She is a paraplegic from the knees down. She wears AFOs and is ambulatory. I have recently been teaching her how to drive with the aid of a portable adaptor for the gas/brake pedals. I would like to know where would I begin to see if she qualifies for any kind of aid to purchase a car and or permanent equipment? I want her to be independent (so does she). I just don’t know where to begin. The contraption that is on my car right now isn’t set up for long term driving, it keeps shorting out my brake lights. Can you help me on where to start? Thank you.

  4. Jordan V. says:

    Another great option to look into is financing through some of the bigger wheelchair van manufacturers. They are usually very helpful with getting you into the van that is right for you, and helping to make sure you can afford it. I am in the Minnesota area, and around here the place to go is Rollx Vans. They are very helpful, even if you just have questions, they are more than happy to help. Good luck guys, everyone deserves to be able to get around and have that independence.

  5. Stacy M. says:

    I am a C-7 quadriplegic and have been driving for over 20 years now since becoming disabled at the age of 17. The van I have now was given to me by a family member but unfortunately no longer runs and the wheelchair lift is broken and too old and worn to fix. I have no way of being able to afford another van, lift and hand controls. Do you have any suggestions on how I may be able to get some help? Thank you.

  6. Susan says:

    I have never been able to drive. My Mother thought it would not be good for me to drive because I have Epilepsy. I have practiced with my daughter, however. I have never got my drivers license. I am not able to see sights, or the beauty of Fall, Spring, or Summer, Winter or go anywhere. I just take the transit everywhere. If I want to go somewhere, I have to take the bus. Is it possible if someone can help me get a car and a Drivers License?

    My doctor even asks if I am driving yet. My seizures are under control after 25 years, and I am still not driving. I would so much like to drive to work, instead of an one and half hour commute by the bus.

    Is there someone that could assist me to learn how to drive and get my driver license and a car. I do not even care what kind of car. (I do like the old Mini-coopers, they are small).

    Thank you,

    Susan

    • Chris Miller says:

      Hi Susan,

      It sounds like you need to get in touch with a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. They will conduct an assessment covering the following:

      -Medical history
      -Driving history
      -Driver license status, etc.
      -Vision Perception
      -Functional Ability
      -Reaction Time
      -Wheelchair Seating as it pertains to the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle
      -Behind-the-wheel evaluation in actual conditions using equipment similar to that recommended

      From there, they will put the wheels in motion to get you on the road legally.

      Hope this helps! Thanks, Chris.

      To find a specialist in your area, go here and fill out the form on the left side of the page. They will get you started pretty quickly. http://www.themobilityresource.com/mobility-solutions/adaptive-vehicle-solutions/

  7. Debbie says:

    I would like know if there are lawyers to help disabled people? I have a serious problem with my Pain Doctor giving me a bad urine test. Now I cannot get into a new Pain doctor because of his false records. And I have been denied by one doctor already. Please help me and every other person that experiences this. Thank you. Debbie

    • Chris Miller says:

      Hi Debbie,

      I don’t know of any that I can confidently recommend. However, I would contact your local BAR Association. Typically, they can get you in touch with a local attorney familiar with your circumstances for pro-bono (free) services.

      Hope this helps! Thanks, Chris

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Debbie,

      If you feel you have been denied access to health care because of your disability, you may wish to contact your state Protection and Advocacy Service (P&A). P&As provide individuals with disabilities and/or mental illness free assistance in making sure their rights to education, employment opportunities, health care and other services are not violated. To find contact information for your state’s P&A, visit http://www.napas.org/en/ndrn-member-agencies.html and choose your state from the list on the right side of the page under the heading, “Select a state!”.

      Best,

      The Disability.Blog Team

  8. Mr. James F. M. Sr. says:

    If I have two bad knees and have gout in both feet and it’s documented with the Veterans Affairs’ Hospital, then why can’t I get these devices from them – without all of the run around and paper-work?

    • Chris Miller says:

      Hi James,

      I understand, nobody wants to deal with the run around. But unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary.

      I would reccomend reaching out to the VA one more time to see what you qualify for. If you are not successful this time around, email me directly and I’ll see what I can do.

      Thanks, Chris

      cmiller@themobilityresource.com

  9. Michael T. B., MA CTM ISP = "GeoBlitz" says:

    9.26.12 Hello, I just discovered your blog c/o disability.org and very happy to hear abt. you. I’m surprised I did not hear abt. you before.
    I am struggling with a difficult situation: briefly, I’m a 65 years old “post-polio survivor” and no longer ambulatory; I need a van conversion w/ transfer seat and trying to find a good used one, but nothing seems to fit me or my budget. I am also a client of DVR in Oakland, CA and also work on contract as a “tutor” for State Rehab.

    I wanted to work out a PASS plan, but can’t approve it while on s.s. disability; and I can no longer be gainfully employed, limited to only p/t work, maybe 10 hrs a week. I have been trying to get the State to help with some of the conversion equipment, namely the transfer seat, but my counselor’s hands are tied due to severe budgetary limits.

    I do have a pre-approved “Capitol One” offer for a vehicle, for up to $30K, but finding a good used van under this price is difficult and most have high mileage. This would be my last vehicle purchase for life, for all practical purposes. I also want very much to travel again and serve as a travel consultant to disabled (seniors) and geo-liaison to governmental agencies (eg. USGS, as I have an MA in geography).
    So even at my age and in my worsening condition I still have many aspirations and in order to fulfill them I need help with getting into a van conversion. If you can help me in any way and/or be of further assistance working with other agencies, I will be most grateful. I will be happy to “advertise” for you and will make a great “testimonial” !

    Thank you kindly for any consideration and hope to be in touch on a regular basis. I would like to make some contributions as a “travel writer” and network with fellow disabled drivers across the country!

    Sincerely, Michael – “GeoBlitz” travel geographer/research/writer/ geo-liaison and DVR tutor to learning disabled in math and sciences.
    Oakland, CA