What is ABHF-TX?
In 2012, ABHF-TX was created as a support service for The Texas Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP). ABHF Texas is a non-profit that provides hearing health services to low-income and other underserved individuals. We serve as a support service for The Texas Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) which provides financial assistance for telecommunications equipment and/or accessories for all individuals with a disability, including hearing, vision, motor or speech. ABHF will bring solutions directly to the senior or individual with hearing loss.
What is STAP?
The Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) is a state-wide program that provides financial assistance for the purchase of specialized assistive equipment or services for Texans having a disability that interferes with their ability to access the telephone network. Individuals interested in requesting assistance must complete and submit an application to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services /Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DARS/DHHS) where it will be reviewed to determine if the applicant meets the criteria as defined by law.
Qualifying applicants are sent a voucher that may be used to purchase beneficial telecommunication equipment or services. The face value of the voucher is determined by the approved equipment, which is named on the issued voucher. Only registered vendors can redeem vouchers. ABHF Texas is a registered vendor and offers personal assistance in navigating the process.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) is responsible for STAP vendor registration and reimbursement and also intervenes if there is a problem between a STAP voucher recipient and a vendor.
How is STAP funded?
The Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF) provides funding for the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP). STAP costs represent less than five percent of the entire TUSF.
In 1997, the Seventy-Fifth Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 667, requiring the PUC and the Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing (TCDHH) to establish a financial assistance program that would allow individuals with certain disabilities to purchase specialized telecommunication devices. The law was created to ensure telephone network access for individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing and speech-disabled that is functionally equivalent to that enjoyed by individuals without a hearing or speech disability. The Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF) subsidizes the program.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1441, expanding the STAP to include all individuals with a disability that impairs the ability to effectively access the telephone network. This meant that the program was no longer limited to individuals having disabilities involving only hearing or speech. Also, the program added services that provide telephone network access, whereas the program was previously limited to equipment only.
How Do I Apply
To qualify, you must be a Texas resident with a disability that interferes with your ability to use the telephone and be requesting financial assistance for a device that will enable you to access the telephone network.
There are two different types of STAP applications available; the general application, referred to as DARS 3906, and the speech generating device application, referred to as 3907. Once you receive an application, make sure you complete it. Also an approved professional (listed on the application) must sign your application stating that you have a disability that requires specialized equipment or services in order to use the telephone.DOWNLOAD THE STAP APPLICATION
ABHF STAP Process
- Contact the ABHF Representative.
- The ABHF Representative will meet with you and assist you in completing the STAP Application.
- The ABHF Representative will need a copy of the application and proof of residency (driver’s License, utility bill, Medicaid/Medicare card etc.)
- The application is then certified at the time of completion by a licensed certifier as indicated on the application.
- The ABHF Representative will assist you in choosing the equipment.
- ABHF will mail the original application and proof of residency for you to STAP.
- The application can take between 6 and 8 weeks to process. All vouchers are sent directly to you at the address listed. STAP vouchers are sent in oversized envelopes.
- Simply e-mail or call ABHF when your voucher arrives. An ABHF Representative will deliver the equipment for dispensing. You must sign the voucher before the equipment can be dispensed.
- ABHF can assist with set up and address questions as equipment is dispensed.
STAP Overview & Guidelines
- Patient needs are assessed by a professional
- An application for equipment is submitted to STAP
- A voucher is sent directly to the patient
- The voucher is redeemed by a vendor
- The patient pays only for Shipping & Handling and any costs above the amount of the voucher
- Only one person per household may apply for a voucher unless individuals in the same home need different equipment to use the telephone. In that case, each person can apply.
- Only one voucher can be issued per eligible individual once every 5 years unless the individual’s disability changes.
- Application must have original signatures—no photocopies or fax copies.
- Certification of disability by professional is required.
- Proof of Texas residency required.
- The only cost to patient is shipping and handling of the equipment.
When will I get my voucher?
Applications are processed in the order in which they are received so the waiting times vary dependent upon the workload of the staff reviewing the applications. It generally takes approximately one month from the time that an application is received until it is processed.
When you receive your equipment or service, you will sign your voucher, keeping the copy that says “Recipient Copy” and giving the remaining two copies to the vendor. Do not sign the voucher until you receive the equipment or service in order to ensure that you receive what is specified on the voucher. One exception to this however involves mail order exchanges. If you exchange your voucher through the mail, necessitating your signing the voucher upon ordering your device, the vendor is required to send your device to you via signature only delivery.
Please make sure to verify that the house address on the voucher is correct and that the vendor receives the correct mailing information. You may also want to provide the vendor with additional contact information such as a telephone number and/or email address in the event that the vendor needs to contact you regarding your equipment order.
What if my equipment breaks, is stolen, or destroyed before the five years are up?
Once you purchase the equipment you are the owner, not the state, and you are responsible for repairs, damage or loss of equipment. You may not receive another voucher until the five years has passed. For any repairs or damage, you may want to contact the manufacturer and try to resolve the issue or find another company that specializes in repairs for your type of device. However, the burden is on you, as the customer of their product, to do this.
Are there any age limitations or income guidelines regarding who may qualify?
The rule states that STAP equipment must benefit the person, there are no age limitations and income is not a factor in determining program eligibility.
When can I get another voucher?
By law, qualifying individuals may only receive one voucher every five years. However, if your disability changes and you require different equipment to access the telephone network, you may qualify for another voucher. Individuals interested in applying for another voucher due to a change of disability must reapply and complete the entire application including the section designated for change of disability requests.
I have two telephone lines. Can I receive two vouchers?
No, the law permits one voucher per household* regardless of the number of telephone lines. (*refer to the exceptions in the preceding question)