August 11, 2020

Reps. Levin-Bilirakis Bill to Help Wounded Veterans Becomes Law

San Juan Capistrano, CA – VA Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Chairman Mike Levin and Ranking Member Bilirakis announced that President Trump has signed their bill, the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act, into law. Their bipartisan legislation will improve and expand the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 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 by assisting with buying, building, and remodeling an adapted home.

“This law will reduce financial stress for families like mine who use or need the Specially Adapted Housing benefit,” said Army Capt. (Ret.) Ryan Kules, Wounded Warrior Project Director of Combat Stress Recovery. “It will provide more peace of mind, freedom, and comfort in their homes.”  Kules and other leaders of Veterans’ advocacy organizations discussed the limitations of the current program in a House Veterans Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing last year, and both Levin and Bilirakis were inspired to modify the program to better meet the needs of this special population. 

“Our wounded veterans often have specific lifelong needs when returning home from service to achieve independence in their homes, and they deserve our ongoing support throughout every stage of their lives,” said Rep. Levin. “This legislation will enact commonsense updates to the VA’s Specially Adapted Housing Grant to better reflect the evolving needs and life changes that may arise for our wounded veterans and their families. I’m glad the President saw the immediate importance of expanding this service and signed our bill into law.”

“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 Rep. 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 makes that happen. I am proud we were finally able to push this important bill across the finish line and appreciate President Trump signing it into law.” 

There have not been any major modifications to this program in many years and this update was long overdue. Specifically, this important legislation will:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. Increase the cap on the number of Post-9/11 Veterans who have lost a limb due to their service that may receive this grant from 30 per year to 120 per year.
  4. Increase the aggregate dollar cap amount on SAH grant payments per veteran 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.
  5. Authorize the VA to provide additional SAH funding beyond the dollar cap to Veterans whose home no longer meets their needs ten years after they use 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 new law 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 who showed their support for the Ryan Kules Specially Adapted Housing Improvement Act of 2019,” 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.”