Reps. Heck, Renacci Introduce Bill to Help Low Income, Disabled Veterans
Veterans of Foreign Wars support “aid and attendance” bill
WASHINGTON - While the nation continues to struggle with the issue of homelessness among the veteran community, Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03) and Jim Renacci (OH-16) today introduced legislation that 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.
"It is the stated goal of the House and the Administration to reduce homelessness in our veteran population, yet current policies restrict severely disabled, low income veterans from receiving the resources and support they need," 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 keep our veterans, who have sacrificed so greatly for this country, off the streets."
“I’m proud to team up with Representative Heck to introduce legislation that will have a real, tangible impact for our veterans who are most in need,” said Rep. Renacci. “It makes no sense that a form of disability payment, meant to care for severely disabled veterans who have served honorably, should disqualify them from receiving housing assistance. These are exactly the individuals who have earned them.”
“VFW commends Representatives Heck and Renacci for introducing legislation that would exclude VA pension and aid and attendance income from consideration under HUD homeless housing programs,” said Raymond Kelley, legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “For years the VFW has asked that our most vulnerable veterans be given an opportunity to qualify for HUD housing programs and we believe that this will help minimize the risk of homelessness among many of these veterans.”
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.
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, there were more than 60,000 homeless veterans living in the United States.
President Obama and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal is to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.
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.