Tampa, Fla. – The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) announced the passage of federal legislation to improve the administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) Program for disabled veterans.  Under the Veterans Mobility Safety Act, vendors participating in the AAE Program will be required to demonstrate compliance with quality and safety standards.

The VA is responsible for administering a program that provides eligible disabled veterans with vehicle modifications to complement prescribed AAE (e.g., driving controls, wheelchair and scooter lifts, reduced-effort steering and braking systems, and other medically necessary adaptive equipment).  Current federal law does not require a demonstration of competency from vendors providing AAE services, meaning any individual or business – regardless of education, training, expertise, or ability – is legally permitted to provide, install, or repair a disabled veteran’s AAE.

In recent years NMEDA has received an increasing number of reports regarding quality and safety concerns from veterans receiving services through the AAE Program.  In response, NMEDA began working with Congress on a legislative solution: The Veterans Mobility Safety Act.  Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) shepherded the policy proposal through multiple House and Senate hearings, culminating in final passage on November 29, 2016.  President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law this month.

“Requiring that vendors offering AAE services be certified in accordance with minimum quality and safety standards is simply a matter of common-sense. The VA’s longtime lack of AAE Program standards only served to diminish the quality of VA healthcare, compromise the safety of veterans and the driving public, and waste taxpayer dollars fixing avoidable mistakes,” said Dave Hubbard, CEO of NMEDA.

The Veterans Mobility Safety Act was supported by leading veterans service organization Paralyzed Veterans of America, as well as Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Blinded Veterans Association and VetsFirst (a program of United Spinal Association).  Coalition partners in the adaptive technology and rehabilitation communities included the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) and the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART). Representatives Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) were also instrumental to the legislation’s success.

As technology and adaptive equipment advance, allowing more and more drivers with disabilities to operate motor vehicles, safe equipment and appropriate installations are more important than ever.

“Paralyzed veterans who enjoy the independence and opportunity that driving an adaptive vehicle offers will intimately understand the importance of this legislation,” said Sherman Gillums Jr., Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “These vehicles need to be as safe as possible and function properly, and this bill takes us in the right direction to achieve just that.”

 

About the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association:

Founded in 1989 as a non-profit trade association, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) supports more than 600 mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers and driver rehabilitation specialists in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities. NMEDA is the sponsor of National Mobility Awareness Month each May and the Local Heroes Contest that celebrates Life Moving Forward. For information on NMEDA, please visit www.nmeda.com, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Visit MobilityAwarenessMonth.com for the National Mobility Awareness Month.

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