Bill reverses flawed policy that limits housing benefits for low-income, disabled vets; issue first brought to Heck’s attention during local vets meeting
(Greg Lemon) – Washington — Legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03) aimed at reducing veterans homelessness today passed the House of Representatives by voice vote. H.R. 1816, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2015, ends the flawed Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy of counting the aid and attendance benefit for low-income, disabled veterans as regular income.
By counting the aid and attendance benefit intended for medical care as income, HUD is unfairly reducing the housing assistance available to our low-income disabled veterans. 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.
“We owe it to the men and women who have served our country to ensure that government policies are working for them, not against them,” Rep. Heck said. “HUD’s flawed aid and attendance policy is working against our must vulnerable veterans, making it more difficult for them to stay in their homes. This simple fix allows veterans to use their full housing allowance for housing expenses and will therefore help reduce veterans homelessness, a goal we all share a moral obligation to achieve.”
Rep. Heck originally introduced the legislation in 2012 during the 112th Congress as H.R. 6361. In February of 2013, Heck again introduced the bill as H.R. 1742. Both bills passed the House but were not taken up by the Senate despite overwhelming bipartisan support in the House.
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 can receive $8,191 in aid and attendance benefits annually to offset the cost of a personal care attendant and keep the veteran in his/her home.
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.
Congressman Joe Heck represents Nevada’s Third Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.