The American Legion is strongly encouraging Congress to pass the HAVEN Act, a bill that would amend the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to authorize funding to nonprofit organizations that can help veterans repair, rehabilitate and modify their homes. S. 3614 is set for a vote in the Senate this afternoon; a companion bill was approved by the House of Representatives in September. The act is supported by The American Legion through Resolution 21 , passed during the Fall National Executive Committee Meetings in October.
"The American Legion supports the HAVEN Act because it would allow the public and private sectors to collaborate to assist veterans with housing services that are currently not fully met," said Mark Walker, deputy director of the Legion's Economic Division. "It's imperative that Congress make the bill law before the current lame-duck session of Congress ends."
If the HAVEN Act becomes law, it would amend the NDAA - Congress' annual act that specifies the budget for DoD - to include funding for nonprofit organizations that help veterans maintain their homes. Specifically, the measure would create a Department of Housing and Urban Development pilot program to give grants to nonprofit organizations - like Habitat For Humanity and Rebuilding Together - to rehabilitate and modify homes of low-income veterans and veterans with disabilities.
Under the bill, the nonprofit organizations that receive funding would be encouraged to collaborate with veterans organizations like The American Legion to locate veterans and provide them the assistance they need with their homes.
The housing pilot program also would help augment existing programs like VA's Specially Adaptive Housing program and housing assistance programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nonprofit organizations could pool their resources with these federal housing-assistance programs and affect a larger population of veterans who need assistance with their homes.
With much of the Eastern Seaboard still cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy, the need for housing assistance is dire. The HAVEN Act, if passed, would be a significant help to veterans whose homes were either lost or damaged by the storm.
"The pilot program becomes an important template for meeting future needs of the veteran community," Walker said. "Our government can't do it all. It could use the help of nonprofit organizations with a proven track record of helping veterans."