Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) has introduced the Veterans’ Independent Living Enhancement Act, bipartisan legislation that would help disabled veterans live independently and participate in family and community life.
This bill removes the arbitrary cap on the number of veterans eligible to participate in the Independent Living Program, a part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program. The Independent Living Program provides services to maximize independence in daily living for veterans who are too severely disabled to pursue employment.
The Independent Living Program has been highly successful. It began as a pilot program for 500 disabled veterans in 1980. In 2001, the program was extended and the cap increased to allow up to 2,500 veterans to enroll in the program each year. The cap was increased to 2,600 in 2008 and 2,700 in 2010. Today, that arbitrary cap remains while thousands of veterans wait for the opportunity to enter the program and get the services and support they need.
“Throughout the last 12 years of continuous war, our nation’s brave men and woman have borne a heavy burden, and many of them have returned home with severe disabilities that make daily activities a challenge,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said. “These heroes deserve the best possible care, yet there are still impediments that prevent service members from accessing programs they need to enter civilian life. It is our responsibility to remove those barriers and ensure veterans are able to transition from military service to successful rehabilitation and fulfilling lives. That’s why I am honored to introduce the Veterans’ Independent Living Enhancement Act today.”
Numerous Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and health organizations have expressed support for the Veterans’ Independent Living Enhancement Act. Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Legislative Director Alex Nicholson said, “IAVA supports this strong bipartisan legislation which would help more disabled veterans get the care and services they need to live independent, successful, and fulfilling lives.” The Disabled American Veterans added, “Thank you for introducing this legislation and for your continued support of America’s wounded and injured veterans.”
Easter Seals, an organization that helps people with disabilities, said, “Easter Seals is proud to support the Veterans’ Independent Living Enhancement Act. This legislation would help to ensure eligible veterans with significant service-connected disabilities have access to independent living training and supports to help them live independently and participate fully in their communities.”
Original Cosponsors: Reps. Matt Cartwright (PA-17), William Enyart (IL-12), Alcee Hastings (FL-20) Steven Horsford (NV-04), Shelia Jackson Lee (TX-18), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Ben Ray Luján (NM-03), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Reid Ribble (WI-08) Adam Schiff (CA-28), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Kevin Yoder (KS-03)
Supporting Organizations: Disabled American Veterans; Vets First; Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA); The America Military Retirees Association; AMVETS; Easter Seals; Mental Health America; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Association of American Medical Colleges; United Spinal Association