Congressmember Salud Carbajal introduced a bill Thursday that would eliminate a bureaucratic obstacle that’s impeded the way of U.S. military veterans receiving disability benefits from qualifying for federal housing assistance.
Currently, veterans’ disability assistance is counted as income by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); it is not, however, counted as income by the IRS. For some veterans, that additional “income” puts them over the eligibility limits established by HUD; consequently, they can’t qualify for affordable housing.
According to John Polansky of the County of Santa Barbara’s Housing Authority, the problem first surfaced when it turned out such payments disqualified a disabled veteran then applying for one of the nine units set aside for homeless veterans in Isla Vista’s Pescadero Lofts, which provides housing for those coming off the streets. Try as they did, Polanski said they could not squeeze the applicant’s income levels down below the maximum allowed, $31,000 a year. “The only solution,” he said, “was an act of Congress.”
Polansky was on hand with Carbajal for a Friday morning press conference in front of the Veterans’ Memorial Building on Cabrillo Boulevard. Emily Halpin of the New Beginnings Counseling Center — which targets homeless vets — said in her two years as a program coordinator, she’s encountered 20 to 30 instances where disability payments rendered veterans ineligible for the housing help they were seeking. Currently, the County Housing Authority has about 250 veterans with full or partial disabilities receiving some form of housing subvention.
Nationwide, Carbajal said, about 39,000 full or partially disabled veterans are now counted among the homeless. Carbajal introduced the bill to coincide with the observance of Veterans Day as well as the anniversary of the Marine Corps, in which he served. He cosponsored the bill with Republican Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania, like Carbajal a first-year member and also part of the bipartisan “Problem Solver Caucus.”