The Department of Veterans Affairs offers housing grants for veterans and currently serving military members who have qualifying service-connected disabilities.
The two best-known programs are the VA Specially Adapted Housing Grant, also known as the VA SAH, and the VA Special Housing Adaptation Grant, also known as a VA SHA Grant. These are both intended to help veterans with qualifying service-connected medical issues buy, build, and/or adapt a home that will be the veteran’s primary residence. There are also other grant options which we’ll explore below.
Grants, Not Loans
Unlike VA home loans, these grants are not offered through a participating VA lender, but directly from the Department of Veterans Affairs and must be applied for via the proper VA claim forms. These grants are NOT part of the VA home loan program, they are separate from VA loans entirely.
These housing grants are not open to all disabled veterans; all applicants must have qualifying injuries/medical conditions as described on the VA official site.
Who Is Eligible For The VA Specially Adapted Housing Grant (SAH) And What Is It Used For?
The VA Specially Adapted Housing grant is for qualifying disabled veterans who own their home or for homes owned by an “eligible individual.” It can be used to:
- Construct a specially adapted home on land to be purchased
- Build a home on land already owned
- Remodel an existing home (*if the home can feasibly be made suitable)
- Apply the grant against the unpaid principal mortgage balance of an adapted home already acquired without the assistance of a VA grant
According to the VA official site, the following are qualifying conditions for VA SAH:
- Loss of or loss of use of both legs
- Loss of or loss of use of both arms
- Blindness in both eyes having only light perception, plus loss of or loss of use of one leg
- The loss of or loss of use of one lower leg together with residuals of organic disease or injury
- The loss of or loss of use of one leg together with the loss of or loss of use of one arm
- Certain severe burns
- The loss, or loss of use of one or more lower extremities due to service on or after September 11, 2001, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair (there are only a limited number of grants available each year for this condition)
Who Is Eligible For The VA Special Housing Adaptation Grant (SHA) And What Is It Used For?
Special Housing Adaptation grants are available for veterans who have qualifying service-connected disabilities (see below) to help them adapt or buy an accessible home. VA SHA grants can be used in several ways:
- Adapt an existing home the veteran (or a family member) already owns where the veteran lives as the primary residence
- Adapt a home the Veteran or family member intends to purchase where the veteran intends to live as the primary residence
- Help a Veteran purchase an “already adapted” home where the veteran will live as the primary residence
What are the qualifying conditions required to be eligible for this VA housing grant? According to the VA official site any one or more of the following:
- Blindness in both eyes with 20/200 visual acuity or less
- Loss (or loss of use) of both hands
- Certain severe burn-related injuries
- Certain severe respiratory injuries
What Forms Are Needed To Apply For SHA and SAH VA Housing Grants For Disabled Veterans?
Applicants must submit VA Form 26-4555, Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant, available online through the VA official site. This form can also be mailed to the applicant-call the Department of Veterans Affairs directly at 1-800-827-1000 to request a paper copy of the form.
The VA Home Improvements and Structural Alterations Grant (HISA)
The VA Home Improvements and Structural Alterations Grant (HISA) offers financial help to disabled veterans with service-connected medical issues (and non-service-connected issues in certain cases) who need to make alterations to their homes whether purchased and owned by the veteran, or rented by/for the vet.
The HISA Grant has a lifetime cap (up to $6,800 for Fiscal Year 2020) over the veteran’s lifetime. This dollar amount is current in FY 2020 and is listed for reference only–the amounts you qualify for may change depending on current program guidelines, federal law, and other variables.
HISA Grants up to the maximum may be approved for:
- Those with VA-rated, service-connected conditions
- Veterans with a “non-service connected condition” rated at 50% or more service connected (as determined by the VA)
- A HISA lifetime benefit at a lower rate ($2,000 in FY 2020) may be provided for those with non-service connected conditions
- HISA Grants are capped–you cannot exceed the total amount of the grant but can apply for multiple grants until you have reached the grant’s lifetime limit
HISA funds cannot be used to install temporary ramps, surveillance systems, or hot tubs; they are permitted for alterations such as the following:
- Modified entrances
- Modified bathroom and self-care facilities
- Adjusted or adjustable kitchen & bathroom sinks, counters, surfaces, etc.
- Improving paths or driveways with ramps
- Improving plumbing or electrical systems so medical equipment can be used in the home
The VA Temporary Residence Adaptation Grant
The VA Temporary Residence Adaptation Grant is for veterans with qualifying service-connected disabilities to help them adapt a family member’s home where the veteran lives temporarily. The amount of this grant award depends on which of two other VA programs the veteran qualifies for–the Specially Adapted Housing Grant or the Special Home Adaptation Grant.
TRA Grant Amounts For Those Using The VA Specially Adapted Housing Grant
In fiscal year 2020, qualifying veterans were eligible for up to $39,669 in TRA funds–that is an award above and beyond the SAH Grant amount itself of $90,364 (as applicable for FY 2020). The dollar amounts listed here are only an example of what has been offered in years past–these grant awards are subject to change from year to year.
Qualifying For A TRA Grant Under The VA Special Home Adaptation Grant (SHA)
In FY 2020 veterans were eligible for up to $7,083 through the TRA grant program, that is money above the SHA grant up to $18,074 for FY 2020. As mentioned above, don’t expect the same benefit dollar amounts from year to year–they are subject to change depending on legislation, demand, and other variables.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News