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Homes for heroes: Adaptive housing grants for disabled veterans

Posted on November 15 By Peter Andrew

As the threats faced by active service members change and military medicine improves, we see a new phenomenon: an enormous increase in the number of veterans who return home with service-connected disabilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2012, there were 633,000 of these just from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That's roughly one in four of all Americans who were deployed in those theaters.

Of course, there's no way for any nation to repay the debt owed to those permanently disabled in its service, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does offer some help -- the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant or the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant -- to those who need to construct or adapt homes to better suit their particular needs. A third grant may be available to those requiring temporary assistance.

All qualifying disabilities must be permanent and service-related, and applications may be made by current service members as well as veterans.

1. The Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant

Generally, the SAH is intended for a home that is owned by an eligible individual who has lost (or lost the use of):

  • Both legs
  • Or both arms
  • Or an arm and a leg
  • Or one leg "together with residuals of organic disease or injury"

Others who may qualify include those with blindness (who have only light perception) in both eyes, and those with certain types of burn injuries. Those injured after Sept. 11, 2001, may be eligible if they have lost (or lost the use of) one or more legs and are unable to get around without the help of braces, crutches, canes or a wheelchair.

This grant covers the cost of adapting an existing home or building a new one to allow the qualifying veteran to live independently. During fiscal year 2014, it is capped at $67,555, although it rises each year in line with a cost-of-construction index. Each qualifying veteran can be awarded during his or her lifetime a maximum of three SAH grants to allow for relocations and other changing circumstances.

Many of those who are eligible for an SAH grant are also entitled to Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance cover.

2. The Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant

An SHA grant may be available to adapt a home owned by a family member of an eligible veteran as well as the veteran himself or herself. The disability thresholds include:

  • Blindness in both eyes (20/200 acuity)
  • Or loss (or loss of use) of both hands
  • Or certain severe burn injuries
  • Or some severe respiratory conditions

Just like the SAH Grant, the SHA is upgraded each year in line with a cost-of-construction index, and can be awarded a maximum of three times to a qualifying veteran. During the 2014 fiscal year, it is capped at $13,511.

3. Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grant

Qualifying veterans and service members who are living -- or who plan to live -- temporarily in a home owned by a family member may be entitled to a TRA grant to make their stay easier. The maximum amounts available in 2014 to those who are eligible for an SAH grant is $29,657, and for an SHA grant is $5,295.

The different programs

There may be gray or overlapping areas between the two types of permanent grant, and it's worth clicking through to the relevant page on the VA's website to establish eligibility. That page also includes additional advice and sources of further information (including toll-free phone numbers) as well as links to application forms.

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