WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 21, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — Representative Ann Kirkpatrick earned a major victory on behalf of Native American Veterans today, securing passage of the Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act in the House of Representatives. Rep. Kirkpatrick introduced H.R. 3553 to prevent disabled Native Veterans, their families and their survivors from being denied support through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), and she has been working hard to ensure that the voices of Indian Country are heard in Congress.
NAHASDA was passed in 1996 to help tribal communities more easily access housing grants. While many have benefitted from the law, it includes a significant flaw that hurts disabled Veterans and survivor families by treating their service benefits the same as income. Housing assistance is limited to families making less than 80 percent of the median income of their area, and counting Veterans disability and survivor benefits towards the limit can make those who have sacrificed so much ineligible for support they badly need.
H.R. 3553 would change the definition of income to specifically exclude those benefits, lifting the burden on Native American Veterans and their families.
“This is a simple question of right and wrong. Some of our finest young men and women are being disadvantaged by their service to our Nation, and we cannot let that stand,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “I am honored to be fighting for Native American Veterans so that they are not punished for receiving the benefits they have earned.”
The flaw in NAHASDA was first brought to the Congresswoman’s attention by the Navajo Housing Authority, and she has been pushing ever since to make sure Members of Congress understand what it means for Veterans in Indian Country. Rep. Kirkpatrick brought a delegation from Washington to Window Rock for a field hearing on April 10, ensuring that the representatives of tribes in her district could share their stories and discuss the obstacles disabled Veterans and survivors are facing.
“I was moved by the bravery and strength of our fighting men and women, and angered by their testimony of how the federal government has failed them,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “It is so important for Washington to keep its promises to our Veterans, and that sacred duty is not being fulfilled under the current law. I am proud to be helping Native Veterans make progress on this critical issue.”
The Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act passed the House unanimously. It will next need to be considered by the U.S. Senate.
As the daughter and niece of Veterans, Rep. Kirkpatrick has been pushing hard to make Washington meet its obligations to America’s heroes. She has also been a champion for Indian Country in representing the largest Native American population of any congressional district in the country, and meeting the unique needs of Veterans living on tribal lands has naturally been a particular focus. In addition to this legislation, she has introduced the Rural American Indian Veterans Health Care Improvement Act to make it easier for them to access quality health care options