Access to affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities is critical to ensuring disabled veterans are able to live independent lives in their communities. For veterans who are not eligible for VA adaptive housing programs, veterans who have disabilities that are not related to their service, and veterans who need home repair assistance, there are few options available.
The Housing Assistance for Veterans Employment Act (HAVEN Act) would help to expand opportunities for disabled and low-income veterans to receive needed housing adaptation or home repair assistance. This legislation which has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate would authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish a pilot program to provide grants to nonprofits to rehabilitate or modify homes for eligible veterans. The legislation also requires the cooperation of HUD and VA in developing and overseeing the program to ensure that veterans’ needs are met.
In September, VetsFirst testified on behalf of the HAVEN Act (H.R. 6381) in a hearing before the House Financial Service Committee, Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity. Soon after the hearing, the House passed the HAVEN Act, championed by Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), as part of the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 6361).
Two days after passing the House, the HAVEN Act was introduced in the Senate (S. 3614) with the bipartisan support of Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE).
Through the tremendous support of Sen. Reed and Sen. Johanns and a lot of grassroots advocacy, the HAVEN Act was included as an amendment to the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
Because the House’s version of the NDAA was different than the one passed by the Senate, the two versions had to be joined together to find a compromise bill that could pass both houses of Congress.
Despite the valiant efforts of our champions on the Hill, the HAVEN Act was not included in the final version of the NDAA. Although we are very disappointed that the HAVEN Act was left out of the final bill, we are already working to ensure its passage in the next session of Congress which starts in January 2013.
As you know, accessible housing allows veterans to live in their communities. That’s why we are going to strongly advocate for this and similar legislative proposals in the coming year.