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Witness Testimony of Brian E. Lawrence, Disabled American Veterans, Assistant National Legislative Director

Madame Chair and Members of the Subcommittee:

On behalf of the 1.3 million members of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), I appreciate the opportunity to present our views on the Specially Adapted Housing program.

Section 2101(a) of title 38, United States Code, authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide assistance in the form of a specially adapted housing grant to veterans who have incurred service-connected disabilities consisting of loss or loss of use of both lower extremities, total blindness together with loss or loss of use of one lower extremity, or loss or loss of use of one lower extremity together with either the loss or loss of use of an upper extremity or other organic disease that requires use of a wheelchair or the use of braces, crutches, or canes. The purpose of this grant is to enable severely disabled veterans to construct, purchase, or remodel homes with structural features to accommodate special needs. Section 2102 of title 38, United States Code, limits the amounts VA may provide to such veterans. Currently, VA may approve a grant of not more than 50 percent of the cost of building, buying or remodeling adapting homes or paying indebtedness on those homes already acquired, up to a maximum of $50,000. VA may approve a grant for the actual cost, up to a maximum of $10,000, for adaptations to a veteran’s residence that are determined by VA to be reasonably necessary. The grant also may be used to help veterans acquire a residence that already has adaptations for the veteran’s disability.

The grant was last increased by Public Law 108-183, enacted December 16, 2003. Because the cost of construction has risen over the past four and a half years, the current $50,000 maximum amount is insufficient to allow severely disabled veterans to make all necessary adaptations and modifications. During the most recent DAV National Convention, our members voted to again adopt a long standing resolution calling for legislation which would provide a realistic increase in the specially adapted housing grants, and would provide for automatic annual adjustments based on increases in the cost of living. Our resolution coincides with the recommendations of The Independent Budget (IB), which is a budget and policy document that sets forth the collective views of the DAV, AMVETS, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

Madame Chair, the DAV fully supports the legislation you introduced, H.R. 675 the Disabled Veterans Adaptive Housing Improvement Act, which would increase the $50,000 grant to $60,000, and increase the $10,000 grant to $12,000. Additionally, the bill would provide for automatic annual adjustments based on the national average increase in the cost of residential home construction. We urge that the proposals contained in H.R.675 be favorably acted upon by the Subcommittee.

Madame Chair and Members of the Subcommittee, the DAV appreciates the opportunity to present our views on these bills. We look forward to our continued work with the Subcommittee to serve our nation’s disabled veterans and their families.