Do You Qualify?

VMI’s Operation Independence Connects Veterans to VA Funding for Accessible Vehicles

American flag on military sleeveIf you’re a veteran considering purchasing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle but are fretting about the cost of the conversion, Vantage Mobility International (VMI) has a message for you: You might qualify for federal grants that would put you in a vehicle with no money out of pocket.

Operation Independence, an awareness campaign from the manufacturer and distributor of wheelchair accessible full-size van and minivan conversions, seeks to inform veterans about federal benefits that can help them purchase an adapted vehicle. The campaign launched on Veterans Day 2011—just after the Veterans Affairs (VA) auto allowance grant, or Federal Grant 21-4502, rose from $11,000 to $18,900.

“Veterans need to know that they do have vehicle mobility benefits out there,” says Cindy Ketcherside, VMI’s Operation Independence project manager.

To qualify for the once-in-a-lifetime auto allowance grant, the disability must be 100-percent service connected. Ketcherside explains that an injury can be service connected even if the veteran wasn’t discharged because of the injury. Any injury incurred during the time of active service that now causes disability is a qualifying injury for the grant.

Through Operation Independence, VMI mobility dealers throughout the country connect veterans to experts and advocates who will walk them through the VA’s evaluation process to determine qualification.

“Dealing with Veterans Affairs just becomes overwhelming for veterans just to get health care,” says Ketcherside. “A veteran that is a wheelchair user and has different injuries and different diseases—that actually makes it even more difficult for them. We want to guide them the best way we can.”

In addition, Operation Independence seeks to increase awareness of another VA grant that covers adaptive equipment, including ramps and hand controls.

Ketcherside hopes Operation Independence can trigger the memory of veterans who might have been told about these benefits after they were first injured but forgot because they were overwhelmed.

“We feel obviously one way for them to have true independence is to be able to have the transportation they need to be able to get there, and we know that many of them will be qualified to be able to have funding from the federal government to be able to do this,” she says.

Veterans who are interested in learning more about the auto allowable grant can first reach out to one of VMI’s mobility dealers who will do a needs assessment to see what vehicle and adaptive equipment would work best. These dealers will then put veterans in touch with a network of advocates who will walk them through the VA process.

In addition to the awareness campaign, VMI is also offering $1,000 off the price of the chassis for veterans who are first-time purchasers of a VMI wheelchair-accessible van. According to Ketcherside, that additional money means that most veterans who qualify for the auto allowance and adaptive equipment grants can get into an adaptive vehicle for no money out of pocket.

“It’s really all about getting that veteran the independence he deserves for the service that he’s given our country,” says Ketcherside.

Click here to find out more about Operation Independence and VA grants.

About the Author

Elisha Bury is the editor of The Mobility Project. She can be reached at