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VETS VIEWS: Disabled veterans are now eligible for federal home improvement grants

Greg Remus

Are you a veteran who needs home improvements or structural alterations of your home to accommodate for a physical disability?

Veterans with service-connected disabilities or Veterans with non-service-connected disabilities may be eligible to receive assistance for a home improvement necessary for the continuation of treatment or for disability access to the home and essential lavatory and sanitary facilities.

There is a Federal grant program called the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) program.

On May 5, 2010 the President signed the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Service Act of 2010, increasing the amounts available under the HISA grant:

n Home improvement benefits up to $6,800 may be provided for a service-connected condition or for a non-service-connected condition of a Veteran rated 50 percent or more service-connected;

n Home improvement benefits up to $2,000 may be provided to all other Veterans registered in the VA health care system.

Examples of what HISA may pay for include:

n Allowing entrance or exit from Veteran's home

nImproving access for use of essential lavatory and sanitary facilities

nImproving access to kitchen and bathroom counters

nHandrails (bathrooms and stairs)

n Lowered Electrical outlets and switches

nImproving paths or driveways.

HISA will not pay for:

nWalkways to exterior buildings

nRoutine renovation

nSpa, hot tub or jacuzzi

nExterior decking (in excess of 8 x 8 feet).

In order to receive a HISA grant, the Veteran must first have a prescription from a VA or fee-basis physician for improvements and structural alterations that are necessary or appropriate for the effective and economical treatment of his/her disability.  This must include:

nSpecific items required

nThe diagnosis with medical justification

nThe Veteran's name, address, SSN and phone number(s).

The Veteran must also provide:

nA completed Veterans Application for Assistance in Acquiring HISA

nDetailed quotes from licensed contractors

The process may seem complex and time consuming but with a little help from my office the HISA Grant may be very beneficial to improve your quality of life.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to ask you to mark your calendars. The Tri-county Veterans Roundup will be held July 9, 2011 from 2-7 pm at the Menahga Senior Citizens Center (Hubbard, Wadena, Becker Counties). This event is for all Military, Veterans and their family members. It will be a one stop shop. You can inquire about benefits and then enroll/apply at the same time. This event is in conjunction with the Menahga Midsummer Celebration.

There will be representatives from the Fargo VA Medical Center to include a member of the OIF/OEF/OND Staff, the female vets coordinator and the suicide prevention coordinator, A Vets Center counselor to address mental health counseling for combat veterans, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, several Veterans Service Officers from the DAV, American Legion and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, the Regional Coordinator of Higher Education Veterans Programs, a Veterans Employment Specialist from the Minnesota Workforce Center, a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Representative, a NW Minnesota Legal Services Representative and an Army National Guard Recruiter with the rock climbing wall, a member of the Wadena County Veterans Memorial Wall and Andy Martin an Aid to Senator Klobuchar.

If you have a question about your benefits this is the time to ask since there will be a rep from just about every veteran's related office.

The purpose of the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office is to provide assistance and support to eligible veterans, their dependents and survivors in obtaining benefits through the State and Federal Departments of Veterans Affairs, and to provide benefit counseling, claims service, referral and assistance in a variety of other programs.

You can contact me at the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at 201 Fair Ave, Park Rapids, (218) 732-3561. Have a great day! Don't forget every third Thursday of each month, I will be at the Lakeport Town Hall in Laporte from 9-noon and the Lake George Town Hall from 1-3 pm.