In the United States, there are more than 26 million veterans of the armed services, from World War I veterans to those who served in the War on Terror. These veterans share a special bond and camaraderie unlike any other group in society. However, the harsh realities of war have cost many veterans their hearing, eyesight, and limbs. Rather than remain limited and isolated by their injuries, veterans must rely upon assistive technology to enhance their quality of life. Assistive technology such as prosthetics, wheelchairs, and hearing aids are used by veterans to improve their hearing, mobility, and other functional limitations.
Assistive technology can be costly, but veterans who are covered by the federal government do not need to worry about costs, provided they fill out the proper paperwork. The only payments that must be made by covered veterans are co-payments for the technician's time.
While the federal government provides assistive technology resources and services for veterans, the rules concerning assistive technology are unclear and inconsistent between service-related and non-service related injuries and illnesses. For example, prosthetics and rehabilitative devices are treated the same between service and non-service veterans with both being completely covered by the federal government. However, adaptive equipment for vehicles and vocational training are available only for veterans with service-related injuries, leading to confusion for veterans. In addition, there are inconsistencies based upon type of injury. For instance, veterans with spinal cord injuries can obtain a computer through vocational training or as part of an environmental control unit, but they cannot obtain a computer solely as a rehabilitative device. The services available are inconsistent from region to region and center to center with stronger, more knowledgeable directors being able to obtain services other centers cannot.
Another problem is access to assistive technology for veterans. To obtain the services and resources available to them, veterans need to visit a military or veteran’s medical center for medical review, followed by a visit to a center specializing in providing the type of assistive technology they need. This bureaucratic requirement creates a major problem for veterans who reside in rural areas where there is little or no access to veteran services. In these areas, veterans have two options - either travel to the existing military and veteran sites or use local medical and assistive technology services. However, if veterans choose to use local services, the federal government does not cover the costs. While the federal government does contract out some of its work with a few private sector organizations and has established some community-based outpatient clinics, it is impossible for veteran services to cover all of the rural areas.
The waiting period for veterans to obtain services and assistive technology also varies depending upon the region they reside in and the type of injury. Some of the sites have a high volume of veterans requesting services, which increases the wait time for assistive technology. In other cases, the type of injury and the specialization needed extends the wait. For example, a veteran who is blind can receive assistive technology and training at seven centers under the VA system throughout the nation. However, due to the demand and the few numbers of sites, a blind veteran may wait up to nine months to receive assistance.
Return to Top