Bipartisan Coalition Applauds Passage of Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act

Sep 20, 2012 Issues: Tax Reform, Veterans

House-passed bill will help reduce homelessness among veterans

WASHINGTON - Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers applauded House passage of legislation aimed at reducing homelessness among our nation's veterans. The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act, H.R. 6361, exempts from consideration as income by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) any expenses related to a veteran’s aid and attendance benefits. The aid and attendance benefit is an enhanced pension program provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to our nation’s wartime veterans who are severely disabled and have little or no income. Currently, the aid and attendance benefit is counted as income when determining eligibility for housing assistance, thus diverting assistance away from our most vulnerable veterans. The bill, which was introduced by Congressmen Joe Heck (NV), Jim Renacci (OH), Judy Biggert (IL), and Al Green (TX), passed the House Financial Services Committee unanimously and passed the House by voice vote.

"Homelessness affects over 60,000 veterans nationwide, 1,500 in the state of Nevada, and that is simply unacceptable," Rep. Heck said. "The men and women who have fought to protect our freedoms and keep us safe should not be burdened with worrying about whether they will have a roof over their head when they return home. I applaud the House for passing this important bill that prohibits the aid and attendance benefit from being counted as income when determining the amount of housing aid a disabled veteran is able to receive. This bill ensures our most vulnerable veterans receive the benefits they have earned and deserve and will keep them off the streets. I thank my colleagues Congressmen Jim Renacci and Al Green and Congresswoman Judy Biggert for their work in getting this crucial bill passed." 

“Sadly, America still struggles with the issue of veterans’ homelessness,” said Rep. Renacci (OH-16). “Our bill helps ensure severely wounded veterans are not prevented from accessing housing because of the cost of the care they receive for their injuries. While there is certainly much that needs to be reformed and improved in our public housing programs, this is a chance to fix one, important oversight that affects brave former members of our military. At the end of the day, these are exactly the individuals who we should be helping.”

“Homelessness impacts more than 144,000 American veterans each year, and overcoming the barriers to housing can be especially difficult for those veterans with disabilities," said Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity.  "This important bill will ensure that a low-income veteran isn’t penalized when seeking housing assistance simply because of his or her disability benefits.  It’s a commonsense change that recognizes the immense sacrifices made by our veterans who have given so much to protect the American dream for the rest of us.  I applaud Rep. Heck for this hard work on this bill, and I hope our colleagues in the Senate act quickly to send it to the President.”

“I’m proud to have played a role in the bipartisan passage of, H.R. 6361, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act,” Rep. Al Green (TX-9) said. “I am especially proud of H.R. 6381, the Housing Assistance for Veterans Act of 2012 (HAVEN Act), which I introduced and was incorporated into H.R. 6361. The incorporated language from the HAVEN Act offers valuable assistance in rehabilitating and modifying the homes of low-income, disabled veterans. While I am not a veteran, I do care passionately about veterans having all the resources a grateful nation can provide them to maintain their productiveness and role in society. Legislation to support our brave veterans transcends partisanship as well as ideology in Congress, and should remain one of the top priorities for a government that asks so much of them.”

The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act (H.R. 6361) also includes a provision by Congressman Al Green that would award grants to qualified non-profit organizations to rehabilitate and modify the primary residences of disabled or low-income veterans. According to the Census Bureau, there are 4.3 million veteran homeowners with disabilities.  Some examples in the bill of eligible uses of grant awards include installing wheelchair ramps, widening exterior and interior doors, and accommodating the functional limitations that result from having a disability. The grants will greatly assist veterans, as nonprofit housing organizations are able to leverage more than $3 for every one $1 in federal funding received. The provision also requires participating nonprofits to detail their outreach plans and match a minimum of 50 percent of the grant award.

Background:

According to the VA, veterans eligible for the aid and attendance benefit are defined as those requiring the aid of another person in order to perform his or her activities of daily living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, using the restroom, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting themselves from the hazards of their daily environment.

In order to receive aid and attendance benefits, severely disabled veterans must first establish their eligibility for a low income pension which requires an adjusted gross annual income of less than $12,256 for a single veteran with no dependents. Once eligibility is determined, that same veteran (single, no dependents) can receive $8,191 in aid and attendance benefits annually to supplement the cost of their medical care.

The Congressional Research Service estimates that the median annual cost for a licensed home health aide is $18,179. The cost of an assisted living facility is $39,600, and the median cost of a room in a nursing home is between $73,000 and $81,000 annually.

According to VA.gov, as of 2011, more than 60,000 homeless veterans were living in the United States.

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