Living with a service-related disability is both a challenge and a process – an experience with extreme lows but also with surprising moments of gratitude and insight. While many injured or sick veterans understand that they could be eligible for disability benefits, not everyone is aware that disabled vets are also eligible for other small perks – our nation’s way of saying thank you for your service and bravery.
One perk that disabled veterans can take advantage of is The America the Beautiful Access Pass, a free, permanent pass that grants disabled veterans admission into over two thousand parks and recreation sites across the country controlled by five different federal agencies. The pass grants admission to parks and sites overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Services, the United State Department of Agriculture Service, and the National Park Service.
The pass allows free access to sites with entrance fees – both for the disabled veteran and up to three adult passengers traveling in his or her vehicle. In addition, the pass may also include discounts for campsites, boat launches, guided tours, and water access. Regular annual passes for those that are not disabled cost $80 annually.
How can disabled veterans receive a free pass? Vets are encouraged to visit any federal recreation office to apply in person – just bring along documentation that proves your disability. Disabled vets may also apply for the lifelong pass through the mail by sending in an application, proof of residency, proof of disability, and a $10 processing fee. Proof of permanent disability could be a doctor’s note, a VA disability document, or a Social Security Disability document.
Again, although this seems like a small concession when considering a life altered by a permanent service-connected disability, it is still a wonderful opportunity to see some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and wonders that our country has to offer.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.