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Unforeseen Home Disasters and Disability

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-11-10 - What are people with disabilities supposed to do if an unforeseen home disaster strikes - Disabled World (Disabled World).

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Quote: "The Home Improvements and Structural Assistance program is open to a larger population of veterans and includes those veterans who are disabled as a result of non-service related conditions."

A home is a place everyone needs and while a house of one's own is out of reach for many people who experience forms of disabilities, I have been fortunate enough to be able to purchase a home through the Colorado Housing and Finance's disability program. The home was built in the year 1942 and over time it was bound to develop issues with something or another. I just didn't expect something so large to happen so soon after I moved in.

The issue that arose was the collapse of the sewer line and it brought forth images of Tom Weiss packing up his things yet again and moving into an apartment. I have friends whose home is still empty because of the very same issue. I also have friends who were forced from their home because of a sewer line collapse who have no hopes of ever returning to their now abandoned home. The costs related to repairing a sewer line can reach into the thousands of dollars.

After living through a major wildfire here in Colorado State, I lived in 4 different places before closing on the home I now have a mortgage on. Moving became a way of life for more than a year. The thought of having to leave the home I fought so hard to get, my very first house, was more than merely disheartening. What saved my home

Friends, Digging, Wheeling and Dealing

To be plain, if I did not have the friends I do, the house would be toast. A loan and some whole-hearted outright trench digging saved this house. I contacted Bruce Lee Plumbing and they work with Veterans, Seniors and People with Disabilities. We hammered out a deal where the trenching work would be done by me and my friends and Bruce Lee would do the plumbing work itself, saving hundreds of dollars.

Not every person with disabilities has the ability to trench down 2.5 feet over 10 feet in length by 3 feet wide. To be blatantly honest - I am one of them. Knee and ankle braces aside, my joints will never be the same after digging alongside Victor, a friend of mine, and Kat, my girlfriend. Between the 3 of us we got the trench dug in 2 days time and Bruce Lee did indeed do the plumbing work.

Yet what are people who experience forms of disabilities that will not permit them to make such a deal with a plumber supposed to do if a disaster like this one strikes? How is a person who uses a power wheelchair; for example, supposed to dig a trench? What is a veteran who is older supposed to do? A couple of different programs might help.

The USDA's Rural Development Housing & Community Facilities Programs

Section 502 loans are mainly used to assist low-income individuals or household buy homes in rural areas. Funds may be used to build, repair, relocate or renovate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites, to include providing water and sewage facilities. Applicants for loans may have an income of up to 115% of the median income for their area. Families must be without adequate housing and must be able to afford the mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance. Applicants must also have a reasonable credit history.

Under the section 502 program, housing has to be modest in size, cost and design. Houses constructed, purchased, or rehabilitated have to meet the voluntary national model building code adopted by the state and HCFP thermal site standards. New manufactured housing must be permanently installed and meet the HUD Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards and HCFP thermal and site standards. Existing manufactured housing will not be guaranteed unless it is already financed with an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan, or it is Real Estate Owned (REO) formerly secured by an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan. Rural Development officials have the authority to approve the majority of Section 502 loan guarantee requests.

Home Repair Grants for Veterans with Disabilities

The Veterans Administration has 2 grant programs for home repair funding for veterans with disabilities who are qualified. The, 'Specially Adapted Housing Grant,' and the, 'Home Improvements and Structural Assistance,' program are offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans with disabilities to remain in their own homes.

The Specially Adapted Housing Grant (SAH) provides up to $50,000 to veterans with disabilities so they may create a home that is fully accessible. The Home Improvements and Structural Assistance (HISA) program offers home improvement and modification grants of $1,200-$4,100 for veterans with service-connected and non-service related disabilities.

The home repair grant funding is offered by the VA to help veterans with disabilities to live in the community they want to, in a home of their own choosing. SAH has helped qualified veterans with disabilities to modify an existing home, or to build a new accessible home. HISA offers veterans additional assistance. The main function of these programs is to allow veterans with disabilities to live as independently as they possibly can.

Qualifying for SAH or HISA

The Specially Adapted Housing Grant is available for veterans who were disabilities permanently and totally through wartime service, which means it is there for veterans with a 100% disability rating. The majority of veterans who qualify are veterans who use wheelchairs and need modifications to existing house plans for wheelchair access.

The Home Improvements and Structural Assistance program is open to a larger population of veterans and includes those veterans who are disabled as a result of non-service related conditions. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs HISA program handbook, veterans may receive a $4,100 lifetime benefit for the following:

  • A service-connected condition
  • A non-service connected condition of a veteran in receipt of 38 U.S.C. Section 1151 benefits
  • A non-service connected condition of a veteran with a rating of 50% or more service-connected

A $1,200 lifetime HISA benefit may be available when needed for treatment of a non-service connected condition for veterans who are:

  • Rated less than 50% service-connected
  • Former prisoners of war, veterans of the Mexican Border period, or WWI
  • Unable to defray the expenses of needed care as determined under 38 U.S.C. Section 1722
  • Discharged or released from active duty for a disability incurred or aggravated while on duty
  • Eligible for benefits under 38 U.S.C. Section 1710(a)(2)(F) and (e) due to exposure to a toxic substance, radiation, or an environmental hazard

Under SAH terms, it must be medically feasible for a veteran with disabilities to live in the home for which the grant would be used. A change in the program in the year 2008 allows veterans to use this benefit up to 3 times. Prior guidelines restricted the grant to 1 time per veteran.

The HISA program does not cover major modifications that are usually covered by the SAH grant program. For example; handrails installed in showers are covered under HISA, while widening a bathroom doorway is not. A qualified veteran with disabilities must have a prescription for the home modification from a doctor to qualify for grant funding.

Receiving grant money through the HISA and SAH programs is not hard and does not require paid assistance. Some companies offer, 'grant assistance,' for a fee to help veterans with disabilities to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs home repair grant funding, yet these fees are never necessary. Veterans, please visit: Applying for Benefits at - www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/Applying.asp.

While I personally might have reached for a grant through the VA to get the sewer line repaired, there are the lifetime limits to bear in mind. The USDA's programs are focused on rural homes. In my opinion, America needs a central, all-inclusive agency that concentrates on ensuring that all Veterans, Seniors, and People with Disabilities have access to the assistance they need should something like a sewer line collapse happen, so we can stay in our homes and in our own communities.

USDA Rural Development
eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov/eligibility/welcomeAction.doNavKey=home@1

National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
gero.usc.edu/nrcshhm/directory/

Rebuilding Together
rebuildingtogether.org

Related Information:

  1. Guide to Home Buying for People with Disabilities - Total Mortgage Services, LLC - (2012-08-15)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/housing/house-purchase.php
  2. First Home Owners Guide to Mortgages - Sally Cohan - (2009-02-06)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/finance/first-home-loans.php
  3. US Veteran Home Loans and Tax Benefits - Disabled World - (2009-02-06)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/finance/veteran-home-loans.php


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