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Public Statements

Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BIGGERT. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a cosponsor of H.R. 6361, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2012. I strongly urge my colleagues to support its passage.

Put simply, this legislation will ensure that we don't punish low-income disabled veterans who are seeking or receiving housing assistance simply because of their disability benefits.

Currently, if a veteran gets help with in-home care for their disability, that help is incorrectly calculated as income, which increases their housing costs.

For purposes of section 8 and public housing assistance, H.R. 6361 would exempt from a veteran's income his or her service-related disability benefits as well as expenses for in-home aid and care. It also reforms how section 8 and other housing programs calculate utility subsidies, and it awards grants to rehabilitate and modify homes for our disabled and low-income veterans.

As part of our effort to eliminate homelessness among veterans and help low-income veterans, our Financial Services Committee has closely examined the housing barriers facing disabled and low-income veterans. As recently as last week, we heard from veterans like Cassondra Flanagan of Philadelphia, who asked us specifically to fix how government programs treat disability benefits in their financial assessments. H.R. 6361 would address her request by helping veterans overcome one of the key bureaucratic hassles that make it harder to find a secure and stable place to call home. That's why our legislation has broad, bipartisan support.

On September 12, 2012, the Financial Services Committee passed H.R. 6361 by a unanimous vote. In February, the Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee also gave its approval to similar legislation as part of the Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Improvement Act of 2012, a broader proposal to reform HUD's section 8 and public housing programs.

I'm also pleased that we were able to include in today's bill the language authored by Mr. Green of Texas so that additional assistance can be provided to those veterans who need home renovations to accommodate their disability.

While we can never repay our veterans for the selfless sacrifices they've made to defend the liberties we enjoy, we can work to ensure that they have a place to call home. We also can work to ensure that our severely disabled veterans have adequate facilities and living conditions within the comfort of their homes.

Mr. Speaker, our veterans have paid a high price to protect the American Dream, and they should have the opportunity to experience the blessings that dream represents.

I commend my colleague from Nevada (Mr. Heck) for introducing this bill. He's put a lot of work into this. I'd also like to recognize my colleague from Texas (Mr. Green) for his tremendous bipartisan work and his contribution to this bill. I also thank Chairman Bachus for his hard work on this important measure.

Finally, I also would like to thank the American Legion, VetsFirst-United Spinal Association, Easter Seals, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars for their support of provisions in the bill.

With that, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 6361, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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