|For Immediate Release||Contact: Annie Clark (Collins) 202-224-2523|
|January 9, 2023||Sam Runyon (Manchin) 202-740-6241|
Provisions of AUTO for Veterans Act Signed into Law
Sens. Collins and Manchin co-authored bill to help severely disabled veterans purchase adaptive automobiles
Neal Williams, a veteran from Shirley, Maine, was the inspiration behind the legislation
Washington, D.C.—Today, the president signed into law provisions of the Advancing Uniform Transportation Opportunities (AUTO) for Veterans Act, legislation co-authored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) that will reduce the financial burden for severely disabled veterans who require special adaptive equipment to drive a motor vehicle. The legislation will make these veterans eligible to receive a grant through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help purchase a new adaptive vehicle once every ten years, helping them to drive safely and maintain their independence.
Under the prior law, veterans could only receive a single automobile grant over the course of their lives. The provisions authored by Senator Collins were enacted as part of the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022 (H.R. 7939), which was amended in the Senate to include the AUTO for Veterans Act provisions.
The AUTO for Veterans Act will relieve an enormous burden for many veterans throughout the country who need to purchase expensive adaptive vehicles in order to drive safely or to drive at all.
“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. “Neal Williams, a disabled veteran in Shirley, Maine, has had to purchase several adaptive vehicles since 1999, with each one lasting more than 250,000 miles. A new van costs well over $50,000, which is more than he paid for his home. Neal was the inspiration behind the AUTO for Veterans Act, and this important step will help those like Neal who have served our nation so honorably and sacrificed so much for our freedom.”
“Our Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to protect our great nation, and it is our duty to take care of them when they return home,” Senator Manchin said. “I’m pleased President Biden has signed provisions of our bipartisan AUTO for Veterans Act into law to help reduce financial pressure on disabled Veterans who require special equipment to drive motor vehicles. West Virginia is the most patriotic state in our nation and I will continue working every day to support our brave West Virginian and American Veterans who have made invaluable sacrifices to protect our country.”
“PVA applauds Senator Collins and Senator Manchin for their efforts to pass the AUTO for Veterans Act,” said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director of Government Relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). “This bill will 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.”
Under the previous law, the VA was 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. This 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 could receive multiple Special Adaptive Equipment Grants over the course of their lives, they were limited to a single grant to purchase a vehicle. This limitation failed 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. Under the Auto for Veterans Act, disabled veterans will be eligible for a grant to purchase a new adaptive vehicle once per decade.
Representatives Dan Meuser (R-PA) and David Trone (D-MD) introduced the House companion bill of the AUTO for Veterans Act.