Accessible Transportation

President Signs PVA Priority on Accessible Transportation Into Law

By PVA National Staff

 

On January 5, the President signed into law H.R. 7939, the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022, as amended. This law paves the way for VA to provide an additional automobile allowance and prompts a number of important changes with the department’s various education programs.

Specifically, the law allows the VA to provide an additional automobile allowance to eligible veterans if 30 years have passed since the date they received their first grant. Starting 10 years after the law was signed, the timeframe will decrease, and eligible veterans would be able to receive an additional grant if 10 years have passed since their first grant.

The law also changes the definition of “medical services” to include certain vehicle modifications (e.g., van lifts) offered through VA’s Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) program. This latter provision helps ensure the VA’s current support through the AAE program to veterans with non-service-connected illnesses and injuries remains available. Finally, a newly added provision allows VA to provide nonarticulating trailers designed to transport powered wheelchairs, powered scooters, or other similar mobility devices as adaptive equipment.

Passage of this bill culminates a four-year effort by PVA to secure an additional automobile allowance for eligible veterans. We commend Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS), and then House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano (D-CA) and Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-IL) for their bipartisan effort to make this benefit available. We also thank Senators Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, John Boozman, Roy Blunt, and Maggie Hassan, as well as Representatives Lizzie Fletcher, Dan Meuser, and David Trone for leading the original charge to expand access to transportation for disabled veterans.

As previously noted, the law also contained several provisions related to veteran education. Collectively the language within this package covers a wide range of extensions and protections for veterans engaged in higher education. One provision allows VA to use their authority to protect student veterans in the event of future emergencies, ensuring that if remote education needs to take place, they will not see a reduction in their benefits. Another ensures that if a veteran’s education is disrupted due to said emergency, that they are not penalized or prevented from future use of their VA benefits. This will also impact veterans participating in apprenticeship programs and other on the job training.

Another PVA endorsed provision expands veterans’ eligibility for the self-employment track to all veterans who are eligible for the Veteran Readiness and Employment program. Previously, access to the self-employment track was limited to veterans with a service-connected disability so severe that self-employment was their only employment option. Other language in the education section of this law establishes new protections for service members, including the ability to break a contract with a provider in the event of a deployment or expiration of their term of service, the transferability of some employment licenses, as well as the ability to decide in which state to maintain residency during their service.

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