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What To Consider When Shopping For A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

If you have a disAbility and don’t yet have an accessible vehicle, it’s difficult to know where to start. You’ve worked with your doctor and therapist, maybe even a certified driver rehabilitation specialist (CDRS), but they don’t know your budget, your preferred car or van, or where the nearest mobility dealer is.

Your medical team will help, of course, but you have homework to do:

Set a budget
How much can you afford to pay for a new or used wheelchair van? Figure in the down payment, monthly payment, insurance, gas and an estimate for yearly maintenance. Look for rebates, grants, loans, etc. to help reduce the price tag.

Research, research, research
Your doctor or therapist may recommend necessary adaptive equipment, but there may be other equipment you’d like. Check out the many options available now.

Testing, testing
If you can, test drive different vehicles at the mobility dealership to get the feel of spaciousness, ease or difficulty of loading, driving and parking, etc.

As you narrow the choices down, you might want to rent your top choice for a weekend or week-long trip. Time on the road will determine if the make and model are right for you.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Does it fit lengthwise and width-wide in my driveway or garage?
  • Is there space enough for the ramp or lift to deploy?
  • Can I easily reach and work all the controls?
  • If you plan to use a transfer seat- Is the seat comfortable? (Like your favorite chair at home—can you sit in it for hours and still be comfortable?)

There are many factors to consider that you may not have thought about until you test drive several candidates.

Find a mobility dealer
You will need to find an expert on wheelchair accessible vehicles and adaptive equipment. There are some things to consider when searching for the perfect mobility dealer to assist you.

  • Where are they located?
  • How experienced are they?
  • Do they offer a full-service shop?
  • How many vehicle options do they have available?

Congenital Heart Defects: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a congenital heart defect?

  • Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth.
  • Common examples include holes in the inside walls of the heart and narrowed or leaky valves. In more severe forms of CHDs, blood vessels or heart chambers may be missing, poorly formed, and/or in the wrong place.

How common are congenital heart defects?

  • CHDs are the most common birth defects. CHDs occur in almost 1% of births.
  • An approximate 100-200 deaths are due to unrecognized heart disease in newborns each year. These numbers exclude those dying before diagnosis.
  • Nearly 40,000 infants in the U.S. are born each year with CHDs.
  • CHDs are as common as autism and about twenty-five times more common than cystic fibrosis.
  • Approximately two to three million individuals are thought to be living in the United States with CHDs. Because there is no U.S. system to track CHDs beyond early childhood, more precise estimates are not available.
  • Thanks to improvements in survival, the number of adults living with CHDs is increasing. It is now believed that the number of adults living with CHDs is at least equal to, if not greater than, the number of children living with CHDs.

What is the health impact of congenital heart defects?

  • CHDs are the most common cause of infant death due to birth defects.
  • Approximately 25% of children born with a CHD will need heart surgery or other interventions to survive.
  • Over 85% of babies born with a CHD now live to at least age 18. However, children born with more severe forms of CHDs are less likely to reach adulthood.
  • Surgery is often not a cure for CHDs. Many individuals with CHDs require additional operation(s) and/or medications as adults.
  • People with CHDs face a life-long risk of health problems such as issues with growth and eating, developmental delays, difficulty with exercise, heart rhythm problems, heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest or stroke.
  • People with CHDs are now living long enough to develop illnesses like the rest of the adult population, such as high blood pressure, obesity and acquired heart disease.
  • CHDs are now the most common heart problem in pregnant women.

What causes congenital heart defects?

  • Most causes of CHDs are unknown. Only 15-20% of all CHDs are related to known genetic conditions.
  • Most CHDs are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other risk factors, such as environmental exposures and maternal conditions. Because the heart is formed so early in pregnancy, the damage may occur before most women know they are pregnant.
  • Environmental exposures that may be related to risk of having a CHD include the mother’s diet and certain chemicals and medications. Maternal diabetes is a recognized cause of CHDs. Maternal obesity, smoking, and some infections also may raise the risk of having a baby with a CHD. Preventing these risk factors before a pregnancy is crucial.
  • A baby’s risk of having a CHD is increased by 3 times if the mother, father, or sibling has a CHD.

Questions To Ask Yourself When Searching For a Mobility Specialist Dealer

Now that you have made the decision to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle, you need to shop around for the best provider. Many people turn to a mobility specialist dealer. Here are some considerations you may want to keep in mind when doing your research and shopping.

What vehicle brands does the dealer offer? Do they have a wide-range of vehicles for you to choose from? Do they provide both new and used choices? Do they convert other vehicles besides vans, like SUVs and trucks?

Range of Conversions
Does the company offer the ramp and product options that are specified to your needs? Do their vehicles provide the safety features and equipment you need?

Which vehicle best fits your personality and will keep you happy in the long run?

Is the dealer close to where you live?

Funds and Financing
Is purchasing from this provider beneficial to you in terms of cost? Do they provide a range of priced vehicles, or are all of their products around the same price?

What have others said about this company? Are they a reputable dealer or have they had issues? Does the dealer provide feedback from previous customers or is it hard to find customer reviews?

On-Site Evaluations
In addition to the evaluation from a Certified Rehabilitation Specialist, will I receive another evaluation from the dealer? How will they know the equipment will fit properly? Will it be safe for me to drive?

Once I have purchased my vehicle, how will I learn to use my new equipment? Will the dealer provide me training? Will they be available to address any questions I may have regarding the use of my equipment?

Customer Care
What does the company provide for you? Do they offer incentives like 24-hour local emergency service, warranties and/or trained Ability Specialists that can help you in your decision?

Is the mobility specialist well informed and up-to-date on the technical skills necessary in today’s mobility market? Do they belong to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association – the industry association for safe and reliable transportation options for people with disabilities?

Each of these factors are important to consider during the buying process.

Holiday Mail for Heroes: Give Something That Means Something

Holiday Mail for Heroes- Give Something that means something 2014

Program Overview

With many service members and veterans separated from their families this holiday season due to deployments and hospital stays, the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes (HMFH) program empowers people to “Give Something That Means Something” by sending a card of thanks and support to the members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.

Beginning in 2014, the program will take on a different look, as Red Cross chapters across the continental U.S. and Red Cross offices on military installations overseas will take complete control of the program. There will no longer be a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box to which cards are sent.

Moving forward, local Red Cross offices will collect, sort, and distributing the holiday cards using an events-based approach in their local communities. Local Red Cross offices will:

  1. Hold events to sign or make holiday cards
  2. Schedule card-sorting times.
  3. Coordinate card delivery to the military, vets and families in their communities.

These changes will allow local Red Cross offices to better concentrate on reaching out to the members of the military, veterans and families in their community—neighbors helping neighbors.

Questions & Answers

What is the Holiday Mail for Heroes Program?
The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program enables Americans to “Give Something That Means Something” this holiday season. We are inviting the public to send cards of thanks, encouragement and holiday cheer to members of our U.S. Armed Forces, veterans and military families, many of whom will be far away from home this holiday season.

What is the address of the P.O. Box for the program?
There is no longer a national P.O. Box for the program. Instead, Holiday Mail for Heroes is being conducted at the Red Cross office in your local community. Check with your local Red Cross for times and locations of events and for opportunities to get involved.

Why is the Red Cross changing the format of the program?
We have made this change for several reasons including:

  • A reduction in U.S. military forces overseas, particularly in the Middle East and across Europe.
  • Increased costs of conducting the program.

I contacted my local Red Cross office and they are not participating in the program this year. Where do I send my cards?
There are two options for sharing your holiday cards:

  • Ask your local Red Cross office for military and veterans organizations in your community where you can send your cards directly.
  • Check the participating chapters tab for updated information regarding the closest Red Cross chapter in your area participating in Holiday Mail for Heroes.

I don’t know anyone in the military; how do I participate?
You don’t need to know anyone in the military. Red Cross workers will distribute cards to members of the military and veterans around the world. Contact your local Red Cross for times and locations of card-signing and card-making events.

Cards are not addressed to anyone specific, so who gets these cards?
Participating Red Cross chapters will determine how to best distribute cards to service members, veterans and family members in their local communities, across the nation and around the world. Cards may be delivered individually, included in care packages or displayed at common venues in military installations and hospitals.

Can I drop cards off at my local Red Cross office?

Will my card be distributed to our troops stationed overseas?
Cards are distributed to hundreds of locations domestically and around the world, including military installations, military and VA medical facilities and veterans organizations. Please understand that it is difficult to determine which cards will be sent overseas and which will be sent domestically.

What is the goal for the 2014 Holiday Mail for Heroes Program?
The goal is to share season’s greeting and holiday cheer to the members of our Armed Forces. We do not have a goal for a total number of cards.

Are there other restrictions and guidelines for cards?
In order to make cards as meaningful as possible to a wide audience, we recommend that the public use generic titles such as “Dear Service Member, Veteran, or Military Family Member” when writing the cards. Cards should not contain glitter because some cards may end up at the bedside of a wounded service member and the glitter could aggravate existing health issues.

Can I include calling cards, money or other items in the cards?
We ask that people not enclose any items with the holiday cards. Any items enclosed with the holiday cards will be removed, including photos and other gifts. If you wish to provide financial support for Red Cross services to the military, please donate online.

How can people get involved in the Holiday Mail program beyond mailing a card?
  • Word of Mouth: Check with your local Red Cross office for up-to-date information about the program.
  • Social Media: Connect with fellow card senders through social media channels and help us get the word out through Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #holidaymail.
  • Help Sort and Deliver Cards: If you are interested in helping sort and deliver cards, please contact a participating chapter in your area to see how you can help.

How can people support other Red Cross programs that help members of the military and their families?
Supporting Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces work is simple and we encourage you to make a financial donation by donating online or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

**Contact your local Red Cross chapter directly to find out if they are participating**

Q&A’s About the 100% Disabled Veteran’s Homestead Exemption

If you qualify as a 100% Disabled Veteran, you will be interested in the answers to the most commonly asked questions below.

  • What are the qualifications for this exemption?
    • You qualify for this 100% homestead exemption if you meet these requirements:
      • You own a home and occupy it as your residence homestead.
      • You are receiving 100% disability compensation from the US Department of Veterans Affairs for a service-connected disability.
      • You have a disability rating of 100% disabled or of individual unemployability.

      To get this exemption, you must fill out Form 11.13, checking the box for 100% Disabled Veterans Exemption, as well as all boxes that apply to you. You must attach documentation as well. You may attach a copy of your award letter, a “VA tax letter,” or another document from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs showing 100% disability compensation due to a service-connected disability and a rating of 100% disability or of individual unemployability. The documents you attach must be current documents.

  • How much of my home’s value will it exempt?

    • If you qualify, your home will be totally exempt from property taxes in all jurisdictions, regardless of the home’s value. If you co-own the home with someone other than your spouse, your share of the home’s value will be exempted.
  • I already have a homestead exemption. Do I need to apply for the 100% Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption?
    • Yes. This exemption is not given automatically.
  • I just qualified for the disabled veteran’s exemption. Why do I need to send you my documentation for this exemption?
    • Qualifications for the 100% Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption differ from those for the prior disabled veteran’s exemption. In particular, you must show that you actually receive 100% disability compensation for a service-connected disability, and have a rating of 100% disability or individual unemployability.
  • When is the new homestead exemption effective?
    • If you apply and qualify for the current tax year as well as the prior tax year, you will be granted the 100% Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption for both years. Effective January 1, 2012, you may receive this exemption for the applicable portion of the year immediately upon qualification. (This applies to 2012 forward; not to prior years).
  • I bought my home after January 1, 2011. Will I get the new exemption for part of 2011?
    • No. The exemption will take effect for the 2012 year if you didn’t own your home on January 1, 2011.
  • My disability rating is actually 50%, but because I am over 65, I receive the maximum disability exemption. Do I qualify for the new homestead exemption?
    • No. You must be 100% disabled or have a rating of individual unemployability to qualify for the 100% Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption. You must also be receiving 100% disability compensation from the VA. If the VA reduces or changes either of these ratings, it is your responsibility to notify the appraisal district in writing.
  • If something happens to me, will the new homestead exemption pass to my spouse or children?
    • Your surviving spouse, married to you and living at the same residence, may qualify to continue this exemption.
  • I owe delinquent taxes on my home for years before 2011. Will the new exemption affect those?
    • No. The exemption will apply for 2011 forward. It does not affect prior years.
  • I am in a hospital or nursing home. Can I still get the new exemption?
    • Yes, as long as you intend to return to the home when you are able.
  • My spouse and I own our home together. How is this homestead exemption calculated?
    • If the home is community property, it is calculated as if you owned 100% of the home. If the home is not community property, the exemption is prorated in proportion to the value of your interest.
  • I have a mortgage on the home. Can I still get the new homestead exemption?
    • Yes.
  • I don’t currently have a homestead exemption. Do I need to apply for the regular homestead exemption in addition to this one?
    • You should also apply for the regular homestead exemption. This will ensure that you receive the maximum benefits of the regular exemption should your qualification for the new exemption change.
  • I have recently turned 65. Should I apply for the over-65 homestead exemption in addition to the new exemption?
    • Yes, for the same reasons given above.
  • Q. How much of my home’s value will the new exemption exempt?
    • Your home will be totally exempt from property taxes.
  • I meet all of the qualifications for this exemption. I currently apply the $12,000 regular disabled veteran’s exemption to my home. When I get the 100% Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption, what happens to the other exemption?
    • This exemption will exempt all of the value of your home. Consequently, the $12,000 disabled veteran’s exemption will have no effect. If you own other taxable property (such as a vacation home or business), you should file a new application with the appraisal district and designate the $12,000 exemption as applying to the other property.
  • Will I have to reapply every year for the 100% Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption?
    • No. Once your exemption is granted, you will not have to reapply unless the chief appraiser requires you to do so in writing.
  • I already have a disability homestead exemption on my home. What is the difference between that one and this one?
    • The existing disability homestead exemption has different requirements and benefits. For that exemption, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled, which is not necessarily the same as that used by the VA or your branch of the military. The benefits are also different. Only school districts are required to provide a disability homestead exemption, though many other taxing entities do. The 100% Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption will apply to all taxing units and will exempt the total value of your home.
  • Can I apply this exemption to my main home and get the general homestead exemption on my vacation home?
    • No. Both exemptions apply only to the home that is your principal residence. You can, however, apply the prior disabled veteran’s exemption to your vacation home.
  • How do I get documentation of my status from the VA?
    • You can contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000. Their website is at www.va.gov.