BY US REPRESENTATIVE TOM COTTON –
Washington, D.C. —Earlier, Congressman Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) spoke on the House Floor in support of H.R. 1742, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2013. H.R. 1742 passed the House by voice vote. A video and full transcript of his remarks can be found below.
“I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1742, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2013, bipartisan legislation that ensures fairness in the housing assistance made available to our veterans who have borne the physical costs of service to the country.
“First, H.R. 1742 amends current law to exempt expenses related to a veteran’s in-home aid and attendance-care payments from qualifying as income when determining their eligibility and payments from HUD programs. The in-home aid and attendance-care benefit is an enhanced pension program provided by the VA to severely disabled wartime veterans who make less than $12,256 per year. These pensions are provided out of medical necessity and should not be considered disposable income. Including them in income calculations skews eligibility and wrongly reduces the housing assistance that would otherwise be available to thousands of disabled veterans.
“The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act also improves the way utility allowances are calculated by instructing public housing authorities to base payments on family size—that is, the number of people benefiting from a payment—rather than the current standard of dwelling size. Using this approach ensures, for instance, a family of four living in a one-bedroom apartment will not receive less in utility allowance than a single individual living in a two-bedroom apartment. These housing reforms have broad support from state and local housing agencies, low-income housing advocates and for-profit and non-profit affordable housing providers.
“Mr. Speaker, many of our current veterans assistance program are flawed—they spend too much and help too few. Fortunately, the CBO estimates the reforms in this bill will save almost $50 million over five years while helping thousands of veterans obtain the appropriate housing assistance.
“Sadly, homelessness affects over 60,000 veterans nationwide and approximately 1,000 in my home state of Arkansas. These numbers are unacceptable. As a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand not only the difficulties faced while serving in the military, but also the struggles many encounter upon returning to civilian life—especially with a life-altering disability. These men and women have put their lives on the line for our country; we should be doing all we can to support them—not making it harder for them to obtain assistance.
“I am grateful to my colleague and fellow veteran Congressman Joe Heck and the Financial Services Committee for their work on this legislation.
“I urge my colleagues to support this bill and our disabled veterans, and I reserve the balance of my time.”