The Department of Veterans Affairs has a program called Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) designed to support veterans with disabilities. PSAS is involved in both policy making and projects nationwide that help disabled veterans cope with their conditions.
The VA official site describes PSAS as “the largest and most comprehensive provider of prosthetic devices and sensory aids in the world.” While the phrase “prosthetic” may bring to mind mechanical replacement limbs, the VA approach treats any man-made replacement for a body part or body function as a prosthetic device.
PSAS services and benefits for disabled veterans includes the following:
- Sensory aids
- Mobility aids
- Communication and assistive devices
- Home respiratory therapy
- Recreational/rehabilitative equipment
- Surgical implants
- Durable medical equipment
- Prosthetic repairs
There are five program areas offered by PSAS that disabled veterans should know about:
- VA Hearing Aid Service
- VA Orthotic & Prosthetic Services
- VA Clothing Allowance
- Automobile Adaptive Equipment
- Home Improvement and Structural Alterations
They offer benefits and assistance from adapting a home to be more accessible to clothing allowances for those who have qualifying medical conditions. They may warrant funding for clothing replacement or alteration to accommodate a prosthetic device.
#5: VA Hearing Aid Service
Veterans can receive hearing aids through this VA PSAS program by registering at the Health Administration and Enrollment section of any VA medical center. To sign-up, be prepared to provide copies of military discharge paperwork, driver’s license, and any health insurance. There are multiple ways to enroll in VA’s hearing aid service:
- In person at a VA Medical Center or VA Clinic
- Filling out Form 10-10EZ online
- Completing Form 10-10EZ and submitting via postal mail to the Medical Center of your choice.
Registered patients are directed to schedule an appointment at the Audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic to determine the need for hearing-assistive devices. If the exam reveals a need for hearing aids or other devices, these items along with any required batteries are provided at no cost to the veteran as long as she or he is eligible for VA healthcare.
#4: Providing Orthotic & Prosthetic Services
The VA Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) has about 70 dedicated locations for customized for the patient prosthetic and orthotic fabrication. There are another 600 contracts with local service providers in this area to help veterans and currently serving military members obtain and use prosthetic/orthotic devices.
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site maintains an address list of orthotic and prosthetic device makers. This helps veterans find an approved provider in the local area or as close to the veteran’s home as possible.
Each of these custom fabricators has been certified by one or both of two national accrediting agencies: the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics and the Board of Orthotic/Prosthetic Certification.
Working with a VA approved orthotic/prosthetic fabricator may require registration with a VA health clinic or a referral from a VA health care provider.
#3: VA Clothing Allowance
Veterans with a VA-rated service-connected disability that requires the use of prosthetics or appliances and veterans with certain qualifying skin conditions may be entitled to an annual clothing allowance.
This allowance covers shirts, blouses, pants, skirts, shorts “and similar garments permanently damaged by qualifying appliances and/or skin medication.” The VA official site says that shoes, hats, scarves, underwear, socks, etc. are not eligible for replacement under this clothing allowance.
Qualifying for this benefit includes answering a set of questions about the medical condition, prosthetics, and the nature/duration of the condition. In some cases, short-term issues don’t qualify. Any prolonged use of equipment or medication that can damage clothing may qualify.
The questions include some or all of the following:
- Is the item prescribed intended for long-term (longer than a single year) use?
- Does the device fall under one of the approved Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPC) descriptor codes?
- Can Veteran demonstrate how the item in question causes clothing damage?
- Does the device have any exposed joint(s) or significant amount of exposed rigid material?
Veterans may qualify for one clothing allowance or multiple allowances depending on the nature of the condition. Apply for this benefit by Aug. 1 of each year by completing and submitting VA Form 10-8678, Application for Annual Clothing Allowance, to the nearest regional VA office.
#2: Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE)
The VA Automobile Adaptive Equipment program is designed to help qualifying veterans get assistive technology to help them enter, operate, and exit a motor vehicle, “or other conveyance.” Equipment is available through AAE including:
- Platform wheelchair lifts
- Under vehicle lifts
- Power door openers
- Lowered floors
- Raised roofs
- Raised doors
- Hand controls
- Left foot gas pedals
- Reduced effort/zero effort steering and braking
- Digital driving systems
Training is also available through a VA Driver’s Rehabilitation Program to help disabled drivers safely operate a motor vehicle.
Under AAE, reimbursements are available for standard equipment such as power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seats, and “other special equipment necessary for the safe operation of an approved vehicle.” Non-drivers are not eligible for reimbursement, even if they are eligible for this program. To get reimbursed, you must be a motor vehicle operator.
To qualify for AAE, one or more of the following conditions must apply:
- The loss, or loss of use of one or both feet or hands, or service-connected ankylosis of one or both knees or hips.
- Permanent impairment of vision of both eyes that have a central acuity of 20/200.
The VA official site adds, “Non service-connected Veterans are eligible for equipment / modifications that will allow ingress and egress from a vehicle only.”
To apply, submit VAF 10-1394, Application for Adaptive Equipment to the nearest VA medical center along with the following documentation:
- Valid driver’s license copy
- Bill of sale, invoice, lease agreement or registration form
- Window sticker (or an invoice or bill of sale that describes adaptive equipment
- Vehicle title
- Proof of release or disposal of a previously owned vehicle
- Repair invoices marked PAID w/certification statement signed by vendor where applicable
#1. Home Improvement and Structural Alterations (HISA)
A HISA grant is a VA-provided benefit that helps qualifying veterans to pay for alterations to a primary residence to make it more accessible.
Some HISA grants are available for up to $2,000 to accommodate certain non-service connected medical conditions. While, other grants are available for up to $6,800 for service connected and certain non-service connected conditions.
HISA grants can be used for a variety of adaptive purposes including, but not limited to:
- Modifying entrances/exits
- Making lavatory, shower, and kitchen facilities accessible
- Improving plumbing and/or electrical systems to accommodate in-home medical equipment
Certain modifications are not eligible under the VA HISA grant:
- Walkways to exterior buildings
- Widening of driveways in excess of a 7ft x 6ft area
- Spa, hot tub, or jacuzzi
- Exterior decks in excess of 8ft x 8ft
- Routine maintenance
- Portable or removable equipment
To apply, submit VA Form 10-0103 Veterans Application for Assistance in Acquiring Home Improvement and Structural Alterations to the nearest VA medical center.
The application must include a reference/prescription that includes the improvement or alterations to be made along with a “diagnosis and medical justification for the improvement or structural alteration” according to VA.gov.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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