House Passes Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act

Disabled veterans should receive necessary housing assistance.

Housing ought not to be a worry for our returning wounded veterans.

Any legislation aimed at helping veterans is good legislation, especially those veterans who struggle with homelessness.

The House of Representatives has passed the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 6361). The act, introduced by Representives Joe Heck, R-Nev., Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, Judy Biggert, R-Ill., and Al Green, R-Texas, “would remove an unnecessary barrier that prevents our disabled wartime veterans from receiving the housing assistance they so critically need.”

What the Bill Contains

H.R. 6361 would exempt any financial assistance related to a veteran’s aid and attendance benefits from consideration as income by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). That may sound complicated, but it’s really not.

If the bill passes, any pension benefits given to severely disabled, out-of-work wartime veterans who by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would not count against them when their eligibility for housing assistance is being determined.

“Homelessness affects over 60,000 veterans nationwide, 1,500 in the state of Nevada, and that is simply unacceptable,” Rep. Heck said in a news release. “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.”

“Sadly, America still struggles with the issue of veterans’ homelessness,” said Rep. Renacci in the news release. “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.”

There is also a provision in the bill that would award grants to qualified non-profit organizations to repair and renovate the primary residences of disabled or low-income veterans. There are about 4.3 million veteran homeowners with disabilities, according to the Census Bureau. One-quarter of post-9/11 veterans return home with a service-connected disability.

The grants could be used to install wheelchair ramps, widen exterior and interior doors, reconfigure and reequip bathrooms, and accommodate the functional limitations that result from having a disability. An organization can be awarded up to $1 million, but it must also contribute an amount at least equal to 50 percent of the grant award.

More than one million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless, while tens of thousands of former service members are already living without shelter, according to the Center For American Progress.

The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act goes to the Senate next for consideration.

Photo: U.S. Army