Bilirakis Bill to Enhance Housing Program for Severely Wounded Veterans Is Headed to President to Become Law
Washington, DC: Congressman Bilirakis is proud to announce passage of the Ryan Kules Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act, which will improve and expand the VA’s Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant Program. This program currently provides grants to the nation’s most severely disabled Veterans. Funds can be used to meet these Veterans’ unique housing needs while assisting with buying, building, revising, and remodeling an adapted home that is barrier-free. To be eligible for this grant, Veterans typically have lost at least two limbs or are confined to a wheelchair. There have not been any major modifications to this program in many years, and Congressman Bilirakis has learned from U.S. Army Captain Ryan Kules and other wounded Veterans that reforms to the program are long overdue.
“This vote is a great step toward ensuring wounded veterans have access to flexible resources to adapt their homes, which helps meet their changing needs throughout life,” said Army Capt. (Ret.) Ryan Kules, Wounded Warrior Project Director of Combat Stress Recovery. “The proposed changes will reduce financial stress for families like mine who use or need the Specially Adapted Housing benefit, and it will give them more peace of mind, freedom, and comfort in their homes. I’m grateful for the representatives who supported this act.”
Kules and other leaders of Veterans’ advocacy organizations discussed the limitations of the current program in a VA Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing last year, and Bilirakis was inspired to help modify the program to better meet the needs of this special population as a result of his testimony. “When I heard of the challenges Ryan faced when he wanted to buy a new home to accommodate his growing family, because he could not use the SAH benefit a second time due to program limitations, I knew something needed to be done,” said Bilirakis. “Many of these young and severely wounded warriors are returning home in their early twenties. As they mature and their circumstances change through marriage, the birth of additional children, etc. they need a benefit that changes with them so that they can fully enjoy their lives. Our bill helps to make that happen. I am proud we were finally able to push this important bill across the finish line,” said Congressman Bilirakis.
Congressman Bilirakis is joined by Representative Mike Levin, Chairman of the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, who is co-leading the bipartisan initiative. Specifically, this important legislation will:
- Give prioritization in completing SAH grants to those with serious illnesses, such as ALS and other illnesses that we know are terminal and can progress quickly. These Veterans are already eligible for the grant, so this provision would give them front of the line privileges.
- Increase the number of times a Veteran can use their SAH grant from three to six instances. These Veterans should not feel trapped in their current home when their needs change just because they don’t have the resources needed to adapt a future home of their choice.
- Increase the cap on the number of Post 9/11 Veterans who have lost a limb due to their service from 30 per year to 120 per year.
- Increase the dollar cap amount on SAH grant payments by 15% over the current rate: from $85,645 to $98,492 for the large grant and from $17,130 to $19,733 for the smaller grant. This increase will help every eligible Veteran but is particularly necessary for those who live in high cost areas around the country.
- Authorize the VA to provide additional SAH funding to Veterans whose home no longer meets their needs ten years after they had used up the funding for their first grant. This would address adaptations for Veterans who have moved or for those whose disability has worsened since they originally used their SAH grant.
Multiple Veterans Service Organizations have weighed in with their support of H.R. 3504. See a sampling of their support below:
“ This legislation is very important to Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) members because it will provide critical improvements to the Specially Adaptive Housing benefits that help them live healthy, productive lives in homes that meet their needs in their communities. We look forward to its swift passage,” noted Carl Blake, Executive Director of PVA.
“We’re grateful to all the members of the House of Representatives who showed their support for the Ryan Kules Specially Adapted Housing Improvement Act of 2019, especially Rep. Gus Bilirakis for sponsoring this bill and Reps. Phil Roe and Mike Levin for co-sponsoring,” said Wounded Warrior Project CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington. “This act will provide significant economic relief to many wounded warriors and their families as they make their homes more livable, navigable, and comfortable. Our nation’s wounded warriors fought hard for us, and we’re pleased to see Congress fighting for them.”
Congressman Bilirakis with Army Capt. (Ret.) Ryan Kules and the Kules Family