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Public Statements

Hearing Of The Subcommittee On Economic Opportunity Of The House Committee On Veterans' Affairs

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

I would like to call to attention the fact that the Honorable Frank Kratovil and AMVETS have asked to submit written testimony for the record. If there is no objection, I ask for unanimous consent that their statements be entered for the record. Hearing no objection, so entered.

I ask unanimous consent that all Members have five legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and that written statements be made part of the record. Hearing no objection, so ordered.

Today, we have a full schedule that includes eight bills before us that address some of the unique needs of our veterans population. The bills before us today seek to: expand the use of the Montgomery GI Bill benefits towards establishing a business; improve access to job search information through the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site; allow disabled veterans to adapt temporary housing to their needs without depleting the benefits they will eventually use towards adapting a permanent home; make mediation mandatory between mortgagors, mortgagees and a housing counseling agency prior to a foreclosure; provide for a one-year moratorium on the sale or foreclosure of property owned by surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan; extend VA work-study program participation to include work within Congressional offices; and establish an award program that recognizes businesses for their contributions to veterans employment.

Included in today's hearing is H.R. 5360, which I introduced with our distinguished Ranking Member, Congressman John Boozman. This bill seeks to align the Department of Veterans Affairs' definition of blindness with existing federal laws when it comes to eligibility criteria for specially adapted housing grants. In November of 2009, the Subcommittee held a hearing on Specially Adapted Housing grants. During that hearing, it became clear that many visually impaired veterans that urgently require specially adapted housing do not qualify for the grants because they do not meet the excessively restrictive VA definition of blindness.

Under current eligibility requirements, blinded or visually impaired veterans must have a visual acuity of five two-hundred (5/200) or less to qualify for VA grants that allow them to adapt their home into a configuration that improves both their standard of living and personal safety. The VA's current standard is excessively restrictive and goes far beyond the twenty two-hundred (20/200) definition of blindness codified in federal statute and recognized by several different organizations including the U.S. Social Security Administration, and the VA when it comes to disability claims.

Without Congressional intervention, the Department of Veterans Affairs' five two-hundred (5/200) standard of blindness for Specially Adapted Housing grants will remain unchanged and many visually impaired veterans will continue to be ineligible for the assistance they urgently need.

I want to extend my thanks to the Blinded Veterans of America and the American Optometric Association for their assistance in drafting H.R. 5360. I also want to thank Ranking Member Boozman for contributing his critical expertise as an optometrist in support of this bill. I look forward to receiving feedback on all the other bills before us today.


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