Sen. Warren at Veterans Inc. hears concerns on housing

By Alli Knothe TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

WORCESTER — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren visited Veterans Inc. on Grove Street Thursday, speaking with veterans, advocates and politicians about issues facing former service members.

"The more I know, the better I can do my job," she told them during a 20-minute roundtable discussion before touring the facility.

Steven J. Connor, director of Central Hampshire Veterans Services of Northampton, said he would like Ms. Warren to consider having financial assistance services be exempt from the income-based formula used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to set rents for subsidized housing.

Under the current formula, he said, "All I'm doing is taking local money and giving it to the feds."

Other concerns included increasing services for female veterans, creating a way for older veterans to receive their expired education benefits, as well as making further distinctions for those not honorably discharged so they can still receive some services.

Ms. Warren also mentioned an amendment she proposed last month to require the secretary of Veterans Affairs to work with other agencies to "develop and implement standards" that would prevent "dishonest, predatory, or otherwise unlawful practices" targeted at low-income veterans.

She said Thursday that the bill has "a good chance of passing" thanks to bipartisan support.

Ms. Warren said she is concerned with scammers targeting low-income, elderly veterans who may or may not qualify for the Aid & Assistance benefit, which helps cover the cost of assisted living or in-home personal care.

"We don't see the Aid & Attendance fraud as much as other states," said Coleman Nee, secretary of the state's Department of Veterans' Services. He said that the groups may charge a fee to rearrange a veteran's finances to make it seem like they are in poverty to qualify for the assistance. That often lands them in a worse financial situation, as it can make it difficult to access their funds.

The application for the Aid and Assistance benefit is free.