President Donald Trump on Saturday signed a bill into law that would increase the number of adaptive housing projects for a grant program for disabled U.S. veterans.
The bill, H.R. 3504 Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019, increases the annual number of grant applications for specially adaptive housing (SAH) projects from 30 to 120. The bill, now signed into law, also increases the total maximum grant benefits for the adaptive housing projects from $63,780 per grant to $98,492 per grant.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs fact sheet for the SAH program says the grant money for veterans to add adaptive features to their homes to provide veterans with service-connected disabilities with independent-living features.
The new law also allows SAH grant applicants to apply for a new grant ten years after exhausting their initial housing grant.
The new law also specifically lists blind but otherwise able-bodied veterans to the list of eligible applicants for the SAH grants. Trump alluded to that feature of the legislation when he announced his decision to sign the bill on Saturday in a White House press briefing.
“I’ve just signed two bills that are great for our vets. Our vets are very special,” Trump began his remarks. “. . .The first expands the eligibility for vets with blindness in both eyes. So we have an expansion of benefits, an expansion of various elements of being and working with the VA for vets with blindness and — in particular, blindness in both eyes. And we have a lot of problems with blindness in the VA, and we’re doing something about it. They’ve been talking about this for many years. So that is expanding eligibility for vets with blindness in both eyes.”
The second veterans bill Trump signed Saturday requires the VA to establish a treatment court to allow veterans involved in criminal proceedings to be assigned treatment programs instead of criminal punishments for some nonviolent criminal offenses.
“We’ve wanted this for a long time, they’ve been trying to get it for a long time, and now we have it,” Trump said of the bills. “And I want to thank everybody for helping us get that done. We had a lot of support from a lot of great people, including people in the VA.”
H.R. 3504 was introduced in the June of 2019 by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and was named after U.S. Army Capt. Ryan Kules. The bill was later amended to the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019, adding the name of Army Col. Paul Benne.
On November 29, 2005, Kules’ unit was returning to his unit’s base in Iraq when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). Kules currently serves as the combat stress recovery programs director for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Benne was medically retired from the Army in 2013 due to a medical condition. He became 100 percent disabled and wheelchair-bound and died in December of 2019.