If climbing into a tub to take a shower is a perilous activity, installing a low-threshold shower is a sensible preventative measure to reduce injuries as these VA before and after photos illustrate. Clearly the cost of such alterations is prohibitive for many folks.
For eligible disabled veterans, the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) Benefits program is a practical benefit that could potentially save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in fall-related expenses.
The program’s goal is “…to provide monetary benefits for improvements and structural alterations to the homes of eligible veterans or servicemembers that are necessary for the continuation of the provision of home health treatment of the beneficiary’s disability or that provide access to the beneficiary’s home or to essential lavatory and sanitary facilities in the home.”
- Home improvement benefits up to $6,800 may be provided for a:
- service-connected condition
- non-service-connected condition of a Veteran rated 50 percent or more service-connected
- Home improvement benefits up to $2,000 may be provided to all other Veterans registered in the VA health care system
This program is described in Federal Register Volume 78, Issue 224 (November 20, 2013) Proposed Rules (pages 69614-69625 ) here–some of which actually make sense. This little VHA video makes it sounds so easy and pleasant, doesn’t it? Until you check out the BVA claims online. For example, BVA denial #1436932. The vet just needed/wanted a new front porch with railings (he had none). In the midst of wrangling with the VA, he had one built, and wanted reimbursement. His mistakes: he didn’t get prior authorization, had no medical emergency for an exception (see VHA Handbook 1173.14, para. 10 (i)).,used the DAV, but his fatal flaw was that he didn’t want a wheelchair ramp that the VA OT insisted he get because # 1) the vet said he didn’t want his house to look like a “dump” and #2) he used a walker (and cane) not a wheelchair. Like a true ornery Yankee, he refused the proffered ramp. For his perceived ingratitude, VLJ John J. Crowley decided to chastise him like a little child:
In response to statements such as this one that appear throughout the record, the Board reminds the Veteran that HSIA benefits are medical in nature, designed to, in a case such as this one, assure that veterans have safe access to their residences. It is a misunderstanding of the purpose of the law to view such benefits as aesthetic or decorative in nature. In any event, a ramp would also not have necessary made his home unsightly and may, if fact, have been better for the Veteran’s ambulation in the long term.
And even though the judge caught the Manchester VAMC in a lie, he let it slide.
On July 19, 2012, it was noted that the Veteran needed a stair railing and ramp to the front door. On that day, the VAMC’s MajorMedical Committee (MMC) met to evaluate the request for a HISA grant. The committee denied a HISA grant for remodeling because the remodeling project was already well underway. [The Board notes, however, that the facts suggest that renovations to the front porch and hand railings were not, in fact, “well underway” or even begun at this point.]
The way this case is written is odd; the veteran served from 1953-1955 but in what military branch, or where, the judge is mute. In any case, the VA didn’t give him the benefit of doubt, engaged in a pissing contest with an eligible disabled (100%) deaf elder veteran and made some nasty insinuations about his character and habits. A pox on them!
Would the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC) hear this if someone would take it pro bono? The VHA only expects to get about 7,000 HISA applications a year. It will be interesting to see how many repairs the VA will actually fund.