The Department of Veterans Affairs provides veterans three programs that enable them to make home modifications to accommodate for disabilities connected to their military service or for disabilities resulting from aging. These are the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) benefit, the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant. Of these three programs, the HISA benefit is the most appropriate for the elderly because the benefit is not limited to those individuals with service-connected disabilities.
The HISA benefit offers financial resources to disabled veterans to make medically necessary modifications to their homes to improve access, mobility and, in particular, to facilitate use of the lavatory facilities. For instance, this benefit may cover the addition of handrails, ramps and electrical outlets for installation of medical equipment, roll in showers, and widening of doorways. As mentioned before, the veteran’s disability does not have to be related to their military service. However, those whose disability is service-connected are eligible for a higher benefit amount.
Veterans must have a Veterans Affairs doctor’s prescription that states the diagnosis and the medical reason for needing the home modification. The veteran does not necessarily need to own the home in which the modification is being made. But they must have the permission of the homeowner, as indicated by a signed and notarized statement.
In 2022, the maximum lifetime HISA benefit limit for veterans whose disability is not related to their military service is $2,000. For veterans with service-connected disabilities that limit is $6,800. This limit was last adjusted in 2010.
An application for the HISA benefit is available for download here. Veterans must have a medical prescription stating their name, address, and phone number, the diagnosis resulting in the need for the home modification, as well as what modification is needed. Also, one contractor bid for the cost of the work is required. One can receive quotes for bathroom modifications from multiple contractors by completing this short form. A color photograph of the area that needs modifications should also be included with the application.
More information is available from the VA here.
The SAH grant, also referred to as a 2101(a) grant, provides financial resources to veterans for home modifications to make their place of residence wheelchair accessible. This grant can be used to build a specially adapted home or to remodel a current home. However, unlike the HISA benefit, this assistance is available only to veterans with service-connected disabilities that include the loss, or loss of function, in at least one of their legs, the loss, or loss of function, of both arms, or blindness in both eyes plus the loss of a leg or the functioning of a leg, or in certain conditions, severe burns.
As this grant is for service-related disabilities only, most elderly veterans are not eligible. However, there is no time limit to apply for this grant. Thus, some individuals may be eligible if they have a disability related to their military service that has become progressively worse with age and eventually has required them to use a wheelchair.
As mentioned above, veterans must have a service-related disability that resulted in the loss of, or loss of function, in at least one leg, loss of, or loss of function of both arms, or blindness in both eyes plus either the loss of one leg or the loss of functioning of one leg, or have burns that are particularly severe. More detailed disability requirements are available from the VA here.
The maximum allowable limit for 2022 is $101,754. This figure is adjusted annually based on a cost of construction index. For veterans who will be residing in the home of a family member on a temporary basis, temporary benefits, known as a Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grants, are available up to $40,983.
SHA grants, also known as 2101(b) grants, are provided to service-related disabled veterans to make home modifications that are necessary to allow them to continue to live independently despite blindness, the loss of use of their hands resulting from an injury sustained during their military service, some injuries resulting from serious burns, or some serious respiratory injuries. This grant can also be used to help an eligible person buy an existing home that has already been modified.
Veterans must be blind in both eyes, or have lost the use of both hands, or have lost function due to a burn, or have a significant injury that is respiratory in nature.
The maximum SHA grant amount for 2022 is $20,387. If the eligible applicant is living in the home of a relative on a temporary basis, the maximum benefit amount is $7,318. This temporary benefit is also referred to as a Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grant.
Additional information about the SHA grant can be found on this webpage.