House lawmakers on Monday easily passed legislation designed to give additional grants for housing upgrades to disabled veterans, sending the measure to the president to be signed into law.
The bill, under discussion on Capitol Hill for more than a year, did not have any significant opposition but has been mired in legislative gridlock for months. It had been a priority of officials from the Wounded Warrior Project, who argued the current VA Specially Adaptive Housing Grant was too limited in its current form.
Under the current program, the housing grants — used for a host of home upgrades like wheelchair ramps, accessible cabinets and wider doorways — can total about $90,000 but can only be given to veterans once in a lifetime.
Advocates argued that severely limits disabled veterans’ ability to purchase second homes. They also pushed for an increase in the maximum amount of funding able to be awarded, noting that many home renovation projects for disabled individuals can cost significantly more than the current cap.
Ryan Kules, a combat stress recovery director at Wounded Warrior Project for whom the bill is named, said when he was house hunting in 2015, his family had to factor in an extra $100,000 in anticipated costs to make most homes accessible for his injuries. The Army veteran lost his right arm and left leg in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq in 2005.
“I know the difference that these benefits can make on a warriors home-life,” he said following Monday’s passage.
Under the new legislation, veterans will become eligible for additional grants every 10 years, and the total cap on each payout will rise to nearly $100,000. Kules called that “such an important benefit that will serve severely wounded veterans today and for generations to come.”
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Senate lawmakers had passed the measure back in March. In a statement, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. (one of several bill sponsors from both parties) praised the final legislative step as a win for veterans.
“Many veterans carry wounds from military service that make everyday life more challenging,” she said. “Our bipartisan bill breaks down barriers to help veterans access the specially adaptive housing benefits they’ve earned.”
The president is expected to sign the measure into law in coming days.
About Leo Shane III
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.