Heck Bill to Reduce Veteran Homelessness Passes House Financial Services Committee
Unanimous committee passage clears bill for House floor vote
WASHINGTON - Legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03) to reduce homelessness among our nation's veterans unanimously passed the House Financial Services Committee today. 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. Under current statute, 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 House of Representatives has made eliminating homelessness among veterans a goal, but current policies make that goal unachievable," Rep. Heck said. "Removing the aid and attendance benefit from the HUD income formula will ensure that resources are going to those most in need and will help keep our veterans, who have sacrificed so greatly for this country, off the streets."
This issue was first brought to Congressman Heck's attention in the spring of 2011 during his first Veterans Advisory Council meeting. This provision was originally included in a Section 8 reform bill introduced in the Financial Services Committee. When that legislation stalled, Congressman Heck decided to move forward with the introduction of a standalone bill.
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.