According to the Wheelchair Use in the United States report in 2002, published at the Disability Statistics Center, there are approximately 1.6 million individuals living in the United States using a wheelchair.
Individuals may require a wheelchair for a range of reasons. Paraplegic patients, stoke patients, individuals living with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and individuals with heart disease can all find the use of a wheelchair necessary in order to perform everyday activities.
Access to wheelchair financial assistance are readily available to help the millions of individuals across America who require wheelchairs for mobility and independent living purposes.
A large majority comprising of 1.5 million Americans currently use manual wheelchair devices, with only 155,000 individuals have access to electric wheelchairs.
Individuals with a disability who require the use of a wheelchair can experience many challenges both physically and financially, making it difficult for many adults with a disability to seek employment opportunities. In fact, only 17.4 percent of individuals who are of working-age and currently use a wheelchair have jobs. As wheelchair accessible vehicles and other mobility equipment can be already expensive to pay for, individuals who are currently not working can find it extremely difficult to get the assistance they require.
The Cost Of A Wheelchair
The cost of a wheelchair or any mobility equipment can range depending on an individual’s needs and circumstances. It can also depend on whether the wheelchair is a manual or electric kind.
Mobility scooters for example can generally cost $600 up to $2,000. The variation in price depends on the maximum weight capacity, the amount of wheels (3 or 4 wheels) and the travel distance without a battery re-charge. All models of wheelchairs are different, with different specs and capabilities.
Electric wheelchairs typically cost more than a manual wheelchair and have a higher price tag associated with them. These types of wheelchairs can cost as low as $1,000 and be high as $3,500. The price considers the steering mechanism, the range of turning radius, speed and the travel distance without a batter re-charge.
On the more affordable end, manual wheelchairs provide individuals with a disability a basic yet still effective wheelchair. These can cost $100 up to $750. Most manual wheelchair models are priced according to the weight of the chair, the affordability of the wheelchair and the ability to tilt, being the major difference between models.
Other mobility devices and equipment such as a modified wheelchair accessible van or vehicle can cost tens of thousands depending on the make and extent of modifications required.
10 Wheelchair Financial Assistance Options
As wheelchairs and other disability equipment can be expensive, families are finding it difficult to overcome the financial cost of accessing these equipment in the United States. There are however, many wheelchair financial assistance options available to help cover the out of pocket cost of wheelchairs and other mobility equipment.
1. Mobility Rebate Programs
Large companies like vehicle manufacturers of Ford, Toyota and GM have developed mobility rebate programs to help individuals who require wheelchair modified vehicles at a discounted rate. This is an incentive program to help families overcome the financial barrier of purchasing modified vehicles for their loved one with a disability.
These mobility rebate programs offer rebates are available for individuals who require vehicles modifications for disability needs. Individuals who would like to use this option as a means of financial assistance should research all available manufacturers to negotiate the best deal possible.
Although a mobility rebate program can reduce the cost of getting a wheelchair accessible vehicle, the large majority of the cost will still have to be covered out of pocket.
Grants offered by non-profit organizations and community groups can provide financial aid to those in need of a wheelchair. These grants are normally administrated by non-profit organizations in the United States with a first come first serve basis.
This means individuals will only be given a grant if the non-profit organization has available funding and individuals can be put on a waiting list for assistance.
Although there may be limited funds available, one of the benefits of accessing these grants however is the large pool of organizations offering grants are specific to certain conditions and disabilities.
One example is NTAF Emergency Grant Program, which provides financial assistance through a one off grant. Individuals with spinal cord injury can receive the grant to cover the cost of a ramp or adaptive equipment. This means, spinal cord injury patients can seek a grant in order to cover a portion or all of the cost of wheelchair vans and wheelchairs.
Often programs, grants and other financial assistance options can provide some form of financial aid to pay for a wheelchair. However, these options can have restrictions on who is eligible and limiting terms of how much is actually covered.
Fundraising for a wheelchair can be a better solution. It offers flexible and greater control for individuals as you can decide how the funds are used and what amount you would like to raise. You can find free online fundraising services such as PeoplePledge that can offer assistance in creating a fundraiser online.
It is also helpful to know that any out of pocket amount you use for wheelchairs is tax deductible. This means, you can receive a tax deduction under Medical and Dental Expenses.
4. Non-Profits Organizations and Foundations
Non-profit organizations and foundations, particularly with a mission to help individuals with a disability and spinal injuries can provide financial assistance in many ways.
If you are looking for wheelchair financial assistance from non-profit organizations, it is important to understand that financial assistance will often be provided in the form of long term loans of equipment or by sale of heavily discounted, refurbished, power wheelchairs and ramps.
Referrals, support in writing an application for a grant and even giving you further information of any resources that may be available to you can assist you in finding the right option for financial assistance.
Non-profit organizations can also provide financial assistance for other costs that may affect your ability to pay for a wheelchair. These include medication or prescription drugs, home modifications and other forms of mobility equipment. By using the financial assistance programs from non-profits for other costs, individuals may be able to cover the cost of a wheelchair out of pocket.
5. Veterans Assistance
The Veterans Administration can provide financial assistance to cover the cost of mobility equipment. This financial assistance option is only open to qualifying veterans, which is one of the limiting factors of this form of financial assistance.
Individuals will require to prove their service to the country before receiving any form of support. For individuals who are not veterans, this option is not suitable.
6. Special Finance Programs
Special finance programs from a range of companies offer a variety of financing options in the form of loans for individuals looking to finance mobility vehicles and wheelchairs.
Special finance programs can offer lower interest rates, extended terms and even leasing packages that can help families get wheelchairs and wheelchair friendly vehicles.
Although this option can be beneficial for individuals who require a wheelchair or wheelchair accessible vehicle immediately, there are set backs with this option.
The biggest problem with this option is that individuals will still have to bare all the costs. Although you may receive better interest rates or terms, you will still require to make ongoing repayments for the vehicle. This can put a strain on the family financially in the long term.
Individuals and their families can find it difficult to commit to 5 year long contracts, particularly when there is high uncertainty of regular income within the household. If any circumstances in the future may also change, this can make it difficult for you to make the repayments in time.
7. Social Security and State Disability Assistance
Social security and state disability assistance can offer individuals with financial assistance. Disability benefits for example, can help provide families with ongoing payments to help cover the cost of a much needed wheelchair.
For many Americans living with a disability, the social security and state disability assistance option is the first place most people start with. However, one of the biggest problems with this option is the long application process that can take several months to complete. This can mean families are left with no support for months on end.
8. Public Assistance
The PASS program can assist individuals who require accessible vehicles and equipment in order to work or attend school. Therefore the limitations of this financial assistance is open to those who have a keen interest in schooling or seeking employment.
Upon approval into the program, PASS can allow individuals to set aside money for a vehicle, wheelchair or computer. As long as the requirement of the equipment will assist the individual in school or in the workforce.
Applications are approved on this program through an assessment of an individual’s income and assets. You must be seeking training to go back to the workforce or schooling.
9. State Based Agencies(Non-Medicaid Programs)
Due to economic cutbacks, state based financial aid is often the first to be reduced. Individuals therefore may find it difficult to find an appropriate option.
All state agencies will have a Vocational Rehabilitation Program, where state funding is allocated for individuals within the state area with a disability. The program’s aim is to encourage and support individuals with a disability to stay or get back to the workplace.
The vocational rehabilitation program can provide financial assistance for vehicle modifications to assist individuals to become more mobile.
Unfortunately, a lot of state based financial assistance options for individuals with a disability are limited and/or discontinued. The best way to find out what is available is to contact your nearest agency.
Medicare has a range of programs and services available for both individuals with a disability and seniors in need of a wheelchair. However, each program will have set requirements for eligibility and have variations of benefits available. You may also notice that each state may provide similar programs and services, but these will vary slightly as they are all administered by each state.
One of the common restrictions or requirements will be whether the individual seeking financial assistance for a wheelchair is in a nursing home, in assisted living or living independently.
For individuals who are living at home, Medicaid Waiver programs are available for example to help gain access to durable medical equipment.
Individuals who are approved on Medicare will be able to get 80 percent of the cost of a wheelchair covered. This means, the 20 percent remaining is out of pocket.
1) Wheelchair Use in the United States: http://dsc.ucsf.edu/publication.php?pub_id=1
2) Table 2. Leading conditions associated with wheelchair/scooter use: http://dsc.ucsf.edu/table.php?pub_id=1§ion_id=1&table_id=2
3) Assistance for Adaptive Equipment: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Resources-Support/Insurance-and-Financial-Information/Financial-Resources/Assistance-for-Adaptive-Equipment
4) Financial Assistance and Payment Options for Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters: http://www.payingforseniorcare.com/financial-assistance/paying-for-wheelchairs-and-scooters.html#title10
5) Funding Sources for Mobility Products: http://www.mcmobilitysystems.com/Help-Paying-For-Wheelchair-Accessible-Van-and-Mobility-Equipment.aspx
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