Navigating the funding system for assistive devices can be both intimidating and frustrating. The following blog series will break down funding options and processes. A great resource for Canadian people who use wheelchairs or other assistive technology is this AGEWELL-NCE report on Access to Assistive Technology in Canada, which provides a summary of many government and charity organisations that have funding available for assistive technology (Wang & Wilson, 2017).
For a comprehensive list of funding sources categorised, with a list of applications and restrictions, check out the AGEWELL funding report by Wang & Wilson(2017). This blog is not written or endorsed by any funding organisation, and all information is subject to change. Always use the information available from the organisation itself in the event of conflicting information.
Veterans Affairs Canada Assistive Technology Funding
People eligible for funding through the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) can use their VA Health ID card to access services available to them. VAC insurance is offered through Medavie Blue Cross to Canadian Veterans.
A list of people eligible for VAC health benefit funding can be found here. Whether or not you should apply to the Veterans Affairs before applying to provincial funding depends on whether or not the device requested relates directly to the condition for which you have been granted the VAC disability award (source).
If you are a Group A Veteran (applying for benefits directly related to condition for which you receive a disability award) then you should apply for device funding through the Veterans affairs FIRST.
If you are a Group B Veteran (the benefit applied for DOES NOT relate directly to the condition for which you have been granted disability award) then you should first apply to provincial sources of funding. The VAC will pay for benefits not covered by the provincial plan if there is a medically demonstrated need.
Determine Requirements for Product
The VAC uses Benefit Grids to categorise products available for funding. The benefits are split into 15 programs. Most assistive technology devices for mobility are categorised under the “13- special equipment” category. Other assistive technology is available in “1- aids for daily living”. To determine if funding is available for the device you require, find the device category on the benefit grid. Enter the category and province here and scroll to find the desired item, or use the search box to find the specific benefit code. Clicking on the product will reveal the requirements for prescription (ie. who is able to prescribe the item) and whether or not it must be pre-authorized.
Most special equipment must be prescribed by a VAC approved health care professional (find one here), and often must also be recommended by another health care professional. For health care professionals to become VAC approved, you must apply through Medavie Blue Cross.
If ordering the product through a VA approved provider, they will bill the VA directly, and the Veteran is not required to pay out of pocket for the unit. Braze Mobility has been approved by Medavie Blue Cross as a VA provider. If not, all payment must be made up front by the Veteran, and later reimbursed by the VA.
Canada is home to many different assistive technology start-up companies, that create user-based innovations focused on increasing independence and mobility. An example of an innovation that can help Veterans who use wheelchairs are Braze Mobility blind spot sensors for wheelchairs, which provide the user with multi-modal feedback about objects in their environment, making navigating tight spaces and avoiding collisions easier! Learn more about Braze systems here. In order to receive funding for innovative products with no product code in funding organisations, contact the company and they will work with you to find ways to make the product affordable!
All information for this summary was found on the Veterans Affairs Canada website, and the Medavie Blue Cross website. If you have any questions about the process, you can contact the VAC at 1-866-522-2122 (toll-free) Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30, local time.
I would love to hear from you, about your experience with acquiring funding for AT through any organisation! If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!