United Spinal helps gain passage of legislation to help disabled veterans
NEW YORK, Aug. 7, 2012—United Spinal Association’s VetsFirst program played a key role in supporting the passage of legislation that improves access to service dogs, rehabilitation services and adaptive housing for veterans with disabilities that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Monday, August 6, 2012.
The legislation, titled The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (H.R. 1627), includes several provisions that will help disabled veterans transition back into their communities and regain their independence. Key provisions in H.R. 1627 focus on:
• Strengthening rehabilitation services available to veterans living with traumatic brain injury that treat all facets of their injury, not just the physical ones.
• Providing greater access for service dogs at VA facilities to support the rehabilitation of veterans (based on HR 1154).
• Temporarily expanding eligibility for Specially Adapted Housing assistance for post-9/11 veterans who have difficulty with balance due to severe injuries that affect their ability to ambulate.
• Updating the definition under the Special Home Adaptation grant program to allow for benefits for veterans who meet the consensus definition of legal blindness.
• Changing the Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) benefit, which allows veterans to apply for a grant to adapt the home of a family member with whom they are temporarily residing so that it will no longer count against the maximum funds available to them under the Specially Adapted Housing and Special Home Adaptation grants and increasing the maximum amount of funding available under TRA.
Heather Ansley, Esq., MSW, vice president of veterans policy at VetsFirst said, “We fought hard to ensure that this bill passed and I am confident that a majority of the provisions in H.R. 1627 will have a positive impact on the disabled veteran community.”
“However, VetsFirst is disappointed with the decision to ensure accessibility to VA facilities only for those service dogs that are trained by an appropriately accredited agency, which is much stricter than what is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, thereby potentially denying access to an individual with a properly self-trained dog,” she added. “We will continue to work with VA to ensure access for all properly trained service dogs.”