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WASHINGTON — Congress is considering a pilot program to let disabled servicemembers use federal grants to make improvements to their parents’ homes.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers adaptive housing grants to disabled veterans to retrofit their homes with improvements such as wheelchair ramps and handicapped-accessible restrooms. Veterans who have lost use of both legs are eligible for up to $50,000, while those with less severe injuries can get up to $10,000.

But Keith Pedigo, director of the VA’s loan guaranty service, said currently that money is only available for veteran-owned homes, not rental properties or houses owned by a servicemember’s parents.

“We want to make sure there is some expectation that the veteran will live in that house for some period of time,” he said.

But legislation introduced last week by Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., would expand those grants to include houses owned by a disabled veteran’s family members, allowing them to use 20 percent of the maximum funding available for improvements in those temporary homes.

“Many younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have not yet had the opportunity to become homeowners,” he said in a statement. “Being ineligible for VA help to modify their homes, these veterans and their families often are compelled to either shoulder the costs of retrofitting their residences or face extended stays in VA medical facilities.”

The proposal would make the grant expansion a five-year pilot program, with plans for a review of its success after three years. Since the grant totals would still be capped at $50,000 and $10,000, Pedigo said the proposal shouldn’t add a significant financial burden to the system.

He said the issue of using the grants on a veteran’s parents’ or sibling’s house has been brought up in the past, but that the need for that kind of assistance has increased in recent years.

The VA currently has 65 housing officers handling the grant requests, and mandates the personnel help with planning and inspection of the projects to ensure they meet the veterans’ needs.

The legislation would not affect grants awarded through the Veterans Health Administration, which also awards Home Improvement and Structural Alteration grants for work to adapt disabled veterans’ homes.


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