VA Adaptive Sports ProgramsUpdated: March 17, 2021
The Department of Veterans Affairs National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events (NVSP&SE) office is responsible for operating a group of adaptive sports and creative arts programs for veterans. They are designed to promote healing and community among disabled veterans and their loved ones.
Adaptive sports have long been used to promote fitness. The VA approach is to use “formalized adaptive sports medicine as a practice specialty” using clinical expertise and support from corporate sponsors, donors, and community partners.
A Variety of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events Programs
There are six VA programs nationwide:
- National Veterans Wheelchair Games
- National Veterans Golden Age Games
- National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic
- National Disabled Veterans T.E.E. (Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament
- National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic
- National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and Festival
National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG)
This event was created in 1981. It is designed to serve vets with spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis, stroke, neurological disorders, and amputations. Anyone with these conditions who is eligible for VA health care may compete in 19 different sports events. They also receive relevant healthcare information as part of the program.
NVWG is said to be one of the largest wheelchair sports events for disabled veterans in the nation. The Department of Veterans Affairs partners with Paralyzed Veterans of America to run and promote this program
National Veterans Golden Age Games
Since the mid-1980s, the National Veterans Golden Age Games is for VA healthcare-eligible veterans 55 or older with 17 competitive events focusing on adaptive table sports. This is open to veterans with a wide range of conditions and is a qualifying event for the National Senior Games.
National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic
The VA is involved in two seasonal events which are quite different from one another. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic was created in the late 1980s. It promotes adaptive winter competitive sports such as Alpine skiing, rock hockey, climbing, and similar contests. The winter clinic includes workshops and educational programs to promote healthy lifestyles for veterans with disabilities. Veterans with a wide range of disabilities are welcome including those with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, visual impairments, and “other disabilities.” The VA partners with Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to run this seasonal event.
National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic
By name, this may sound like a similar or identical program to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, but this event is newer as it was founded in 2008. It emphasizes summer sports including surfing, cycling, track and field, and sailing.
The summer clinic is open to those with “recent” injuries or conditions including orthopedic amputations, traumatic brain injuries, burns, psychological trauma, neurological conditions, PTSD, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries or “other eligible injuries” incurred within the last six years.
National Disabled Veterans T.E.E. (Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament
Another event co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the T.E.E. Tournament is a golf-centered event founded in 1994 to help disabled veterans with physical rehab and overall health & wellness. It provides a sense of community through adaptive golf and other sports.
T.E.E. is for veterans with visual impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, psychological trauma, neurological conditions, spinal cord injuries, and other qualifying disabilities. The event focuses on golf, but also includes other adaptive sports including kayaking, pontoon fishing, horseback riding, adaptive biking, and more.
National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and Festival
This event, presented by the VA and the American Legion Auxiliary, is the one non-sports themed event in the VA National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events lineup. Established in 1989, it promotes the power of the creative arts in the healing process. They offer competitions in art, music, dance, writing, and drama.
The qualifications for this competition are much different than some of the other programs listed here. It is open to is open specifically to Veterans “who are enrolled at a VA Medical Center or Outpatient Clinic BEFORE entering the local competition.” Submissions for this event are done via the VA health care facility where the veteran gets their primary medical care.
Registering for VA Adaptive Sports Programs
You can register or learn more about each individual VA adaptive sports program at the VA official site.
VA Monthly Training Allowances for Paralympic and Olympic Sports
The VA National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events Office offers monthly financial assistance for veteran athletes with qualifying disabilities who are training for Paralympic sports.
Veterans qualify for these funds with service-connected or non-service related conditions and by meeting the minimum VA performance requirements in a Paralympic-recognized competition. The VA official site says qualifying for this grant requires the veteran to be “nationally or internationally classified by his or her respective Paralympic sport federation as eligible for Paralympic competition in that sport.”
A monthly allowance is also available to a veteran with a VA-rated service connected disability at 30% or higher if the athlete is chosen for a national Olympic team “in any event sanctioned by the National Governing Bodies of the U.S. Olympic Sport.”
The VA requires training and competition plans, quarterly reports, and other documentation. The monthly rate of payment starts at just above $600, an allowance paid at the same rate as the Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) rate. You can learn more about the training standards for this program for 2018 at the VA official site.
VA Grants for Adaptive Sports
The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t just administer these programs. It also provides millions of dollars in grant funding to organizations large and small to increase the availability of adaptive sports for veterans and currently serving troops. These funds are available to qualifying organizations on a national or local level that have “significant experience in managing a large-scale adaptive sports program” according to the VA official site
What kinds of agencies are able to apply for these VA grants?
- National Paralympic Committees
- National Governing Bodies
- Parks and Recreation Divisions
- Colleges and universities
- Veterans Service Organizations
- Paralympic Sport Clubs and other Paralympic and adaptive sport organizations
- Hospitals and healthcare systems
- Non-profit organizations
Government agencies may partner with these organizations, but may not be grant recipients.
VA grant funds for adaptive sports may be used to do any of the following, according to the VA official site:
- Instruction, participation, and competition in adaptive sports
- Training and technical assistance to program administrators, coaches, recreation therapists, instructors, VA employees, and other appropriate individuals
- Coordination, Paralympic classification of athletes, athlete assessment, sport-specific training techniques
- Program development
- Sports equipment, supplies, program evaluation, and “other activities”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is authorized to offer up to $9 million in total grants. The VA can designate as much as $8 million for adaptive sports and as much as $1 million earmarked for organizations offering equine therapy for mental health issues. Grant funds for each organization will vary. It is possible for a single organization to apply for more than one adaptive sports grant.