C09/2005 Vehicle modifications - Vehicle assistance scheme (VAS) | Compensation and Support Reference Library, Departmental Instructions, 2005

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C09/2005 Vehicle modifications - Vehicle assistance scheme (VAS)

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DATE OF ISSUE:  9 March 2005

Vehicle modifications - Vehicle assistance scheme (VAS)

Purpose
This Departmental Instruction (DI) clarifies the process for approving vehicle modifications where eligibility for VAS has been established under s 105 (5) of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA).  All vehicle modifications requested under s 105 (5) should also be considered under that scheme.  In these circumstances, requests for vehicle modifications should not be referred to the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) whose legislative basis is
s 90 of the VEA.

Background

There has been some confusion about the role of expert opinion in relation to vehicle modifications under VAS.  One example of this is where an assessment of a claim was referred to an occupational therapist whose subsequent assessment was based on RAP guidelines.  This confusion arose from a misunderstanding of the fundamental difference between VAS and RAP and the role of expert opinion when considering VAS applications.

VAS eligibility

When a new 'Vehicle Assistance Application' is lodged, the delegate must firstly consider whether the veteran is eligible to participate in the scheme.  VAS eligibility requirements are specified in s 105 (5) of the VEA.  Delegates also have an obligation to consider and familiarise themselves with the decisions in Tracy (FC) 1999 and Tracy (FFC) 2000 as these established important legal precedents in the interpretation of s 105 (5)(d).

VAS  vs RAP
  1. VAS is a scheme for the provision of motor vehicles – including approved modifications and running and maintenance costs – to veterans who meet eligibility criteria described in s 105 (5) of the VEA;
  2. The VAS requirement is that veterans with restricted mobility should be able to 'derive benefit';
  3. RAP also provides for a range of vehicle modifications under its National Guideline for Car Modifications, which has been prepared in accordance with the Treatment Principles.  The rationale is to provide treatment, self-help and rehabilitation appliances based on the veteran's assessed 'clinical need';
  4. Because of the different eligibility requirements, vehicle modifications allowed under RAP may be different to those allowed under VAS.

VAS approvals for vehicle modifications can only be given where the vehicle itself was obtained under the scheme.

VAS applications
Eligibility for VAS should be decided before the veteran obtains firm quotes for their preferred vehicle model and modifications.  This will enable delegates to consider the veteran's individual requirements.  It will also prevent circumstances where a veteran may have unrealistic expectations about what kind of vehicle or modification that may be suitable.

Procedure
In making decisions relating to VAS, the following steps should be followed:
Step 1 - Establish eligibility for VAS.  Individual needs may take different forms, but if there is any doubt or concern about the veteran's ability to drive or to be driven in comfort and safety, seek independent expert advice.  An occupational therapist would be appropriate to recommend important vehicle requirements, modifications, aids or appliances.
Step 2 – Obtain suitable professional advice on what kind of vehicle modifications are required (again this is most likely to be an occupational therapist).  Any such advice or recommendations must be based on VAS criteria, not RAP criteria.  Moreover, the associated assessment costs must be borne by VAS.  Expert opinion can only influence the type of vehicle and modifications that may be approved under the scheme, not the veteran's VAS eligibility per se.

Conclusion
The Disability Compensation areas in each State administer VAS.  However, it is acknowledged that each state office may have local procedures in place to ensure the best use of resources.  Usual procedures should continue provided VAS vehicle modifications are decided using VAS criteria.

Carolyn Spiers

Branch Head

Veterans' Compensation Branch

28 February 2005