Disabled servicemembers and vets may be eligible for a one-time car allowance of more than $20k

Calendar Icon Updated January 17, 2019

Service related injuries can impact virtually every part of an active member’s or veteran’s life, making even simple tasks tough to complete.  Not only is a lot more effort required, the costs can also have a draining effect on a bank account as well, making it difficult to afford even basic necessities such as transportation.

Recognizing this challenge, beginning in October 2016, the Veterans Administration began offering qualified servicemembers and veterans a one-time payment of up to $20,235.20 toward the purchase of an automobile or other conveyance if they meet certain disability requirements.

The program also made servicemembers and veterans eligible for adaptive equipment such as power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seats and special equipment necessary to assist with getting into and out of a vehicle.

The automobile allowance is a one-time payment benefit, but payment for adaptive equipment may be requested multiple times by eligible persons.

If you’re interested in tapping this benefit, it’s important to note that you must have prior approval from the VA before purchasing an automobile or any adaptive equipment.

Automobile allowance eligibility requirements

To be eligible for the automobile grant, you must be a servicemember who is still on active duty, or a veteran.  In addition, you must have one of the following disabilities that are either rated as service-connected or treated as if service-connected under 38 U.S.C 1151, or for a servicemember, the result of a disease or an injury contracted while on active duty or aggravated by being on active duty:

  • Loss or the permanent loss of use of one or both feet
  • Los or the permanent loss of use of one or both hands
  • Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes resulting in central visual acuity that is greater than 20/200, if there is a visual field defect in which the peripheral field has contracted to such an extent that the widest diameter of visual fields subtends an angular distance no great that 20 degrees in the better eye
  • Severe burn injury defined as deep partial thickness or full thickness burns resulting in scar formation that limits motion of one or more extremities or the trunk and precludes the effective operation of a vehicle
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

To be eligible for adaptive equipment, you must meet the disability requirements above or have ankylosis which is defined as an immobility of the join for one or both knees or hips that is recognized by the VA as being service connected.

How to apply 

  • Complete VA Form 21-4502, “Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment” and mail to your regional office 
  • Work with an accredited representative or agent 
  • Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you. You can find a regional office on the VA’s Facility Locator page
  • If you are entitled to adaptive equipment only (i.e., service connected for ankylosis of knees or hips) you should complete VA Form 10-1394, “Application for Adaptive Equipment – Motor Vehicle” and submit it to your local VA medical center. You can find your local VA medical center on the health Facility Locator page.

For more general information on how to apply for an Automobile Allowance and for tips on making sure your claim is ready to be processed, visit the VA’s How to Apply for Compensation page.

Bret Colson

For more than a decade, he managed the city government public information and marketing activities for Anaheim, California, including an active role in the build-out of more than $5 billion in community and infrastructure improvements.  He also spent several years managing the public information function for an Orange County, California special district that served the needs of more than 1.6 million people, and has consulted for several local governments and private sector companies throughout the course of his career.

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