Veterans and active-duty military personnel with service-connected amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, are now presumed medically eligible for grants up to almost $68,000 to adapt their homes, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today.
"VA is committed to eliminating barriers that keep Veterans and Servicemembers from the benefits they have earned," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "This change will make it easier for some of our most severely impaired Veterans to receive speedy assistance adapting their homes to their unique needs. "
The change affects recipients of VA's specially adapted housing grants, which helps pay for the costs for building, buying or adapting a home, up to a maximum of $67,555.
Under the change, Veterans and Servicemembers with service-connected ALS will be determined medically eligible for the maximum grant. The program provides grants to eligible service-connected disabled Veterans and Servicemembers to construct or modify a home to meet their unique housing needs. Grants are also available to help eligible individuals purchase adapted homes or pay down mortgages on homes that are already adapted. VA estimates this change will save approximately 12 months in the overall process of a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant.
"This change automates and shortens our SAH grant delivery process for Veterans and Servicemembers living with ALS,' said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. "SAH is an important benefit giving beneficiaries the ability to adapt their homes and create a barrier free living environment- expanding their independence in their own homes."
In 2008, VA established a presumption of service connection for ALS for any Veteran who develops the disease at any time after separation from service, making them eligible for monthly VA disability compensation benefits. VA amended its disability rating scale in January 2012, to assign a I 00-percent disability evaluation for any Veteran who has service-connected ALS.
ALS is a rapidly progressive, totally debilitating, and irreversible motor neuron disease that results in muscle weakness leading to a wide range of serious disabilities, including impaired mobility. VA adapted its rules so Veterans with service-connected ALS no longer have to file multiple claims with VA for increased benefits as their condition progresses. Prior to the new SAH regulatory change, many Veterans and Servicemembers who were rated by VA for service connected ALS, but who did not yet have symptoms debilitating enough to affect their mobility to the degree required for SAH grant eligibility, were unable to begin the process of modifying their homes to accommodate their often rapidly progressing conditions.
VA's SAH program provides grants to eligible service-connected disabled Veterans and Servicemembers for the purpose of constructing or modifying a home to meet their unique housing needs. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide a barrier-free living environment that affords a level of independent living that the Veteran or Servicemember may not otherwise enjoy.