Standards for vehicle mods still in the works

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Friday, January 5, 2018

WASHINGTON – The clock is ticking on Veterans Affairs to establish quality and safety standards for adaptive equipment and vehicles.

Per the Veterans Mobility Safety Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 14, 2016, the VA had one year to establish standards.

“They were supposed to update their handbook within a year of enactment, and we’re a little beyond a year,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “Those deadlines have been known to slide from time to time.”

The act also calls on the VA to develop a provider certification process using manufacturers or third-party, nonprofit organizations; train the personnel administering its Automobile Adaptive Equipment program; and allow veterans to receive modifications at their homes.

Stakeholders know the VA has been working on the standards: It released a request for information early in 2017 and then received oral testimony at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., that summer.

“We were told at the meeting that the proposed rule would be released late summer, early fall,” Johnson said, “and that they weren’t really going to be able to provide much insight with regard to the makeup of the rule, and that’s still pretty much where we are. It has been radio silent.”

In their comments to the VA, stakeholders emphasized that veterans should be able to receive modifications at their homes or the location of their choice, and that no one manufacturer should be able to control the certification process.

“The biggest thing we want to know is: Who are the certifying bodies?” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for VGM.

Another concern emphasized: that there should be differentiation in the standards for complex and simple modifications. Providers who “chop a vehicle in half” to modify it and providers that attach a wheelchair lift to the back of a vehicle shouldn’t be held to the same standards, Johnson said.

“We’re confident that there will be some type of differentiation,” he said.

Gallagher suspects that, because the handbook is currently unavailable on the VA’s website, it’s possible the agency is in the process of updating it.

“I’m thinking it will be some time this spring,” he said.