June 30, 2010

Committee Approves Bill to Help Native American Vets with Disabilities Receive Housing Assistance

Introduced by Wyden and Thune, Bill Aims to Make Housing Assistance for Native American Vets More Fair

Washington, D.C. – Efforts to correct a flaw in current law that excludes some disabled Native American Veterans from housing assistance programs took a huge step forward today as legislation to amend eligibility requirements has been approved by the Indian Affairs committee. The Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act of 2010, introduced by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Thune (R- S.D.) will discontinue the counting of disability compensation as income, a practice that often pushes disabled Native American Veterans above the income threshold for housing assistance, or increases their rent.

“Housing assistance for disabled Native American veterans is fatally flawed and means that the bigger the sacrifice the veteran has made for this country, the higher their rent and the more likely they are to be excluded from housing assistance altogether,” Wyden said. “Penalizing Native American veterans for collecting disability payments is simply not right, and I am glad that the Committee voted today to correct this injustice.”

"Native American veterans have an extraordinary history of sacrifice and dedication to our country," said Thune. "Many of our disabled veterans live on a fixed income, and I am pleased to see our bipartisan measure will help ensure that they are not denied access to vital housing assistance.”

Under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996, disability and survivor benefits for veterans are counted as income even though they are not counted as such by the Internal Revenue Service. This added income often means veterans exceed the income threshold for housing assistance, making them “too wealthy” to be eligible. And those that are eligible often have to pay a higher rent because of their “extra income.”  The Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act of 2010 will fix that flaw in the NAHASDA in order to ensure that Native American veterans are not unfairly penalized for their disability.