By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday Congressman Spencer Bachus (R) announced in a written statement that the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation designed to help meet the housing needs of disabled veterans.
Representative Bachus said, “The housing challenges faced by disabled veterans are great. That is why we must make sure that federal programs treat our veterans fairly. This bipartisan legislation reforms a regulation that can make it harder for disabled veterans to receive housing assistance that they rightly deserve as a result of their service to our nation,
The House passed the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2012 Wednesday night. According to Bachus’s written statement the bill corrects an inequity in the way that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines rental housing assistance for some disabled veterans. More than 2,000 veterans would be helped by the change, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R)f from Illinois (the Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity) said, “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. 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.”
The current HUD regulations count some medical care payments to disabled veterans as income in its calculations of the amount of money that the disabled veteran has available to pay for rental assistance. This means that a poor person who did not get disabled fighting for our country in Iraq, Afghanistan, or prior wars would qualify for more rental assistance than the veteran who still needs medical care for his wounds suffered in one of our nation’s many conflicts. The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act (H.R. 6361) fixes this by exempting service related disability benefits and expenses for in-home care from being included in HUD income calculations. The bill would also authorize the establishment of a pilot program to rehabilitate the homes of disabled and low income veterans. H.R. 6361 is signed into law would not increase federal spending. It merely assists the poorest veterans efforts to get existing federal aid.
In order for a qualified veteran to receive the 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 get $8,191 in aid and attendance benefits annually to supplement the cost of their medical care. This bill would exempt that $8,191 from the HUD housing assistance calculations.
Congressman Bachus along with Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV) and Congressman Al Green (D-TX) was one of the three original cosponsors of the bill. As Chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee Bachus helped bring the bill to a vote. Rep. Bachus congratulated Representatives Heck and Green for their leadership on the legislation.
The bill now moves on to the Democratic controlled U.S. Senate.
Congressman Bachus represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District. The 6th District includes all or parts of Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, and Coosa Counties.