Heather Ansley, Esq., MSW, Vice President of Veterans Policy for VetsFirst testified before the House Financial Services Committee, Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity on September 14, 2012 in favor of legislation that would provide grants to nonprofit organizations to rehabilitate and modify homes of disabled and low-income veterans.

Many disabled veterans who require housing assistance may not receive or even be eligible for VA benefits. Veterans who have disabilities and disproportionate housing costs are either at risk of becoming homeless or are already experiencing homelessness.

This new legislation, titled the “Housing Assistance for Veterans Act of 2012” (HAVEN Act) (HR 6381) would leverage the resources of nonprofits by expanding their capacity to meet the housing adaptation and home repair needs of our veterans. Many existing housing nonprofits such as Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity and more recent veteran-focused housing nonprofits have stepped forward to assist in meeting the housing needs of disabled veterans.

“Nonprofits not only bring in volunteer leverage, but also the private sector and foundations to work on this critical problem. Nonprofit housing organizations, such as Rebuilding Together, leverage more than $3 for every one $1 in federal funding received. Through a very small investment, the HAVEN Act would engage nonprofits to test the ability to serve those who have served,” explained Ansley during her testimony.

“Rather than directly providing services for veterans through federal funding, the proposal helps meet the need through national nonprofits that compete for very limited funding. Neighbors across the country, through qualified nonprofits, will help address this American challenge by volunteering to help house veterans in need,” she added.

According to a report on homelessness released by VA’s Office of the Inspector General on May 4, 2012, those Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans who become homeless after separating from the military “were younger, enlisted with lower pay grades, and were more likely to be diagnosed with mental disorders and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI) at the time of separation from active duty. Furthermore, the strongest predicator of homelessness after discharge was mental illness or substance abuse.

VetsFirst believes access to affordable, accessible housing is a critical issue for many disabled veterans. The ability to return home after incurring a significant disability is an important aspect of reintegrating into your family and community.

The HAVEN Act, which has bi-partisan support, would help to fill the gap for veterans who need housing adaptation or repairs but are not eligible for current VA programs. The Haven Act was included in HR 6361, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2012, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck / Financial Services Committee). VetsFirst is pleased to report that HR 6361 passed the House by a voice vote on Wednesday, September 19. The HAVEN Act will hopefully be introduced in the Senate as a standalone bill very soon.

Read VetsFirst’s Full Testimony