Lowering transportation costs for disabled veterans would help maintain independence

A new proposal sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain would reduce costs for disabled veterans requiring special equipment and modifications to use their vehicle. Veterans with a disability often require expensive custom vehicle improvements that allow them to remain self-sufficient.

“Many of the veterans who need these customizations are on a fixed income and even just the taxes can present a major financial hardship,” said Fain. “Helping veterans maintain their independence and quality of life is the least we can do for those who sacrificed so much for our country.”

Automotive adaptive equipment is often needed by veterans with a disability to help them enter, exit and safely operate a vehicle. While the federal government typically pays for the modifications, veterans themselves are responsible for paying sales taxes. With the cost of modifications ranging up to tens of thousands of dollars, taxes can cost more than $3,000 per vehicle, according to Fain.

The Legislature originally passed legislation exempting sales tax for the equipment and installation in 2013, which is set to expire July 1. Fain’s legislation would extend the tax exemption another ten years.

In 2016, the program helped 185 veterans with a disability in Washington state foregoing $194,000 in tax revenues.

“In addition to being the right moral thing to do, it’s also financially prudent with the very high cost of accessible public transportation services,” said Fain.

The state’s bipartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee recommended continuing the tax preference in December.