In 2015, retired Army Capt. Ryan Kules went house hunting, and it was then he realized he needed an extra $100,000 in cost to the home because of the injuries he sustained in war.
He had to commit to home renovations such as widening the doorways so his wheelchair could fit through, he had to make things like closets and kitchen cabinets accessible and had to totally renovate showers for his safety and comfort.
Kules, 38, lost his right arm and leg in a 2005 roadside bomb attack. He goes on to talk about the changes he had to make, “One of the changes we had to make was having our master bedroom on the first floor .. we’re lucky because we were able to make it work with what we had available.”
Kules did have a fine home, but then came the birth of his son and second daughter. Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs could not provide a Kules the grant he needed to renovate and afford a new home for his growing family as he had already used the program when he got his first home.
So, Kules went to Capitol Hill with Wounded Warrior Project to lobby for an updated version of the program. The group is pushing for legislation increase the VA’s Specially Adaptive Housing Grant to more than 15%, and to allow disabled veterans to renew the payout every 10 years.
Director of government affairs for WWP, Derek Fronabarger, stated, “Young critically injured veterans will age, many will marry, and some will be fortunate enough to grow their families with children…We want warriors to thrive in their work and personal lives. For those who seek new and better opportunities in life and career, relocating has to be an option. It is, in our estimation, unreasonable to expect a veteran to buy a home and never leave, to the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee during the hearing on the proposal.
If the program is to expand, it is expected to cost almost $120 million over 10 years, and the figure would rise if veterans were to apply for a second time. Because of this, despite general support from lawmakers, the whole issue of the cost could lead to unrelated budget cuts in the future. But those who support the new legislation say the cost is not what’s important.
“This benefit is reserved for those catastrophically injured and who deserve our assistance throughout their entire life, not just one portion of it,” Fronabarger states.