Reps. Heck, Renacci Introduce Bill to Reduce Veteran Homelessness

WASHINGTON - In keeping with the stated goals of the House of Representatives and the Obama Administration, Congressmen Joe Heck (NV-03) and Jim Renacci (OH-16) today introduced legislation to reduce homelessness among our nation's veterans by ensuring our most vulnerable veterans have access to the housing benefits they have earned. The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act exempts from consideration of 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 and is used to pay for in-home medical care and other health care needs.

"The men and women who have worn the uniform should not be sleeping on the streets," Rep. Heck said. "A flawed current policy restricts our most vulnerable veterans from accessing the housing assistance benefits they have earned and deserved. This bill reverses that policy by exempting aid and attendance from the income formula which could be the difference between a veteran staying in a home or apartment and being forced to live on the streets. I am pleased to join with Congressman Renacci and all of the bipartisan co-sponsors of this bill in working on behalf of all of those veterans who have sacrificed so greatly for this country."

“I am pleased to yet again team up with Representative Heck as we reintroduce legislation that will have a positive impact on the lives of some of our veterans who are the most in need,” said Rep. Renacci. “A disability payment meant to aid severely disabled veterans who have served honorably should not disqualify them from receiving housing assistance. These individuals have earned those benefits and Washington red tape must not be allowed to prevent qualified veterans from having access to them.”

The current statute requires that the aid and attendance benefit be counted as income when determining eligibility for housing assistance through HUD, reducing the housing assistance available to low income, severely disabled vets. The Heck/Renacci bill eliminates that provision, thus allowing those veterans who most need assistance to qualify for maximum housing resources and reducing incidents of homelessness among veterans.

In September of 2012, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act passed the House of Representatives by voice vote. It must be re-introduced with the start of a new session of Congress.

This issue was first brought to Congressman Heck's attention during a 2011 meeting of his Veterans Advisory Panel. The panel brings local veterans together to discuss the issues facing southern Nevada's veteran community.

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.

According to the VA, there are more than 60,000 homeless veterans living in the United States.

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