Bill Named After Kansas Native Will Significantly Improve Disabled Veterans’ Quality of Life
Aug 11 2020
WASHINGTON – This weekend, President Trump signed the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 into law. The legislation, introduced by Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), is named after Spring Hill, Kan. native, Army Colonel (Ret.) Paul Benne and Captain (ret.) Ryan Kules and will expand Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) eligibility for blind and seriously injured veterans.
“Veterans have sacrificed much to serve our country, and I am pleased this legislation focused on improving their quality of life has been signed into law by President Trump,” said Sen. Moran. “This legislation will provide our nation’s veterans greater support through a modernized and expanded SAH grant program, allowing the grants to be utilized in a way that best fits the needs of the veteran. This legislation would not be a reality without Colonel Benne and his wife, Christine, whose willingness to share their story and continued advocacy has undoubtedly helped veterans for years to come. I was thankful to work with them and Captain (ret.) Ryan Kules, another Fort Riley soldier who used the SAH grant program and who continues to be a fierce advocate for disabled veterans, to expand this important program for veterans.”
“I thank Senator Moran for his tireless efforts on behalf of our nation’s veterans in passing the Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019,” said Ryan Kules, Combat Stress Recovery Director at Wounded Warrior Project. “This badly needed reform will give thousands of seriously wounded, injured, and ill veterans the financial support to adapt their homes to better match their changing stages of life. As someone formerly stationed in the Great State of Kansas at Fort Riley, I want to personally express my appreciation for Senator Moran’s hard work and leadership to get this bill passed and signed into law.”
In 2013, Col. Benne developed a medical condition that led to his retirement from the U.S. Army after 23 years of service. Col. Benne was rated 100 percent disabled at the time of his retirement. In 2016, Col. Benne was fitted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for a wheelchair and applied for an SAH grant, as neither the Benne’s home nor vehicle could accommodate his new wheelchair. After more than a year of navigating the VA, Col. Benne and his wife, Christine, contacted Sen. Moran’s office for assistance. Within three months of Sen. Moran’s office working with Col. Benne to engage the VA, Col. Benne was given a favorable decision on his adaptive housing claim and provided SAH grants.
This legislation – developed to prevent future difficulties similar to those Col. Benne faced while trying to access an SAH grant – will allow blind veterans to access this grant program and double the maximum number of awarded grants from 3 to 6 per veteran. It will also increase the number of authorized applications per fiscal year from 30 to 120.
Col. Benne, a Spring Hill, Kan. native and University of Kansas School of Pharmacy graduate, served at both Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth during his 23 years of service in the United States Army, most recently as chief of the Department of Public Health at Irwin Army Medical Hospital on Fort Riley. Col. Benne passed away on December 7, 2019 due to complications from his disability. His wife, Christine, resides in Manhattan, KS and is an active member of the Fort Riley-Central Kansas Chapter of the Association of the United States Army.
Items to Note:
- The Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 was introduced in July 2019.
- It was advanced by the Senate on March 26 and passed by the House of Representatives on July 21.
- President Trump signed the legislation into law on August 8.
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