Automotive Accessibility Special Section

VMI Joins with PVA to Offer Operation Independence Program

Having resources available is one thing; helping people to effectively use them is another.

And that’s one of the reasons that Vantage Mobility International (VMI) has joined with Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) to form Operation Independence, a program aimed at educating qualifying veterans about and helping them to navigate the adapted automotive vehicle buying process.

Federal Grant 21-4502 can make it possible for disabled veterans to purchase vehicles such as the wheelchair-accessible vans offered by VMI ( The manufacturer noted that the grant was recently increased from $11,500 to $18,900. But another challenge is making veterans aware of the grant and helping them to take advantage of the opportunity.

The new Operation Independence program, says VMI President Doug Eaton, will help accomplish those goals.

“Th rough this national program, we’ll help raise awareness of the federal grant money that is available to our vets to help them purchase a new mobility vehicle,” Eaton said. “We’ll also explain how the national VMI Select Dealer Network can fast-track their purchase of a quality mobility van and provide important vehicle maintenance after the sale.”

Al Kovach, national senior VP of the PVA ( said Federal Grant 21-4502 is underutilized by eligible veterans. “Th is partnership with VMI’s Operation Independence,” he added, “is so important... as it supports Paralyzed Veterans’ Mission: ABLE campaign, which enables severely disabled veterans to secure care, benefits and jobs, and rebuild their lives.”

VMI is offering a $1,000 coupon to veterans who qualify for the 21-4502 grant and have not previously used the grant. The coupon can be used as a cash-back rebate or can be applied toward a vehicle down payment.

VMI has also created an Operation Independence Web site to educate veterans and their families about the auto allowance grant and the Operation Independence program: VMI is donating $1 to the PVA, up to $10,000, for every “like” registered on Facebook.

And be sure to stop by VMI’s booth at the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) conference in Phoenix to check out what’s new.

“We will be featuring a new version of our Honda Odyssey Northstar conversion,” says Eaton. “We will also be featuring a Toyota Sienna Northstar concept unit, which will be available in small quantities in the second half of 2012.”

Asked about the major challenges awaiting mobility dealers and consumers this year, Eaton added, “The economy will continue to grow in 2012, but at a very nominal pace. Unfortunately, it will not be a recovery year, and the lack of a clear path to recovery will be the major challenge in 2012. The side eff ects are low consumer confidence and a hesitancy of manufacturers to invest in capital expenditures and new personnel.”

Continuing economic challenges make it all the more important for mobility dealers to work with reputable manufacturers, and Eaton suggested that manufacturer traits to look for include membership in NMEDA, compliance with all FMVSS regulations, a nationally certified dealer network and dealer agreements with protected territories and guaranteed leads.

“Tell-tale signs of the pretenders and scavengers include selling directly to a consumer over the Internet or phone,” Eaton said. “Direct sellers do not have a certified dealer network to provide the critical product demonstration, fitting, delivery and after-sale service.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Mobility Management.

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