Changes for Disabled Veterans Housing Program Sought
NAHB on June 7 called on Congress to simplify paperwork requirements and increase grant limits for the Specially Adapted Housing program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help builders and remodelers better accommodate the housing needs and improve the lives of the nation's disabled veterans.
Testifying before the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, NAHB President Brian Catalde voiced support for the Specially Adapted Housing program and offered several suggestions to expand or improve it to better serve the thousands of severely injured veterans whose homes must be modified to allow them to live independently.
While the Veterans Housing Opportunity and Benefits Act of 2006 signed into law last year did much to improve the Specially Adapted Housing program, Catalde urged lawmakers to enact these improvements:
- Streamline the VA paperwork requirements. "Changes can be made to improve the paperwork flow for the Specially Adapted Housing program that would help remodelers and the VA work together to more efficiently meet the needs of eligible veterans," said Catalde.
- Increase the grant limits. "While the VA's accessibility requirements are quite reasonable, the grant ceiling is too low to meet the costs of other extensive changes that must be made to enable veterans to live independently in their homes," said Catalde. "NAHB recommends that the grant ceilings be doubled from the present levels and that these higher limits be linked to a common measure of inflation, such as the Consumer Price Index."
- Authorize the full use of grants for veterans who live with their relatives. Under current law, only one grant can be used for Temporary Residence Adaptation, which pays for changes to the residence of a family member with whom a veteran is temporarily residing. After improvements have been made to a relative's home, many veterans may find that they still are unable to live independently, which may mean that further changes need to be made to the relative's home. To accommodate these veterans, the full use of grants should be authorized for veterans who need to live with relatives for an extended period of time.
In addition, Catalde noted that some members of the NAHB Remodelers, a council within NAHB representing more than 14,000 members, have already applied their skills to put Specially Adapted Housing grants to good use.
"One of NAHB Remodelers' designation programs, the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), was created to equip remodelers with specialized skills to meet the requirements of aging home owners and those with accessibility needs," he said. "We encourage each of the VA's Specially Adapted Housing counselors to take the CAPS certification training to gain a greater understanding of the remodeling skills necessary to fully utilize these grants."
For more information, e-mail Michael Strauss at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8252.