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Veterans with Disabilities

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It is estimated that more than 500,000 U.S. veterans are living with disabilities as a result of service-related injuries and trauma. Many veterans have physical disabilities that interfere with important daily life activities like walking, hearing and seeing. Other veterans face mental health disabilities, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that  limit their ability to perform essential life functions.

Veterans with disabilities have the legal right to obtain housing that is free from discrimination and suited to meet their disability-related needs.

The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) makes it illegal for landlords, managers and housing industry professionals to refuse to rent to veterans, provide veterans with different treatment or inferior services, or refuse to make reasonable accommodations (policy changes) or modifications (structural changes) at rental properties in order to allow veterans to fully use and enjoy their housing.

Examples of discrimination include not allowing a veteran with PTSD to have a service dog in a no-pet building, refusing to allow a veteran in a wheelchair to install a ramp leading to their front door, or denying a veteran the right to install flashing lights in place of a doorbell to accommodate a hearing impairment.

Other forms of discrimination include refusing to rent to a veteran because they disclose that they have a mental-health disability, or not accepting Social Security disability benefits or other veterans’ benefits as a valid source of income.

Under the FHA, newly built multifamily dwellings, such as duplexes, triplexes and apartment buildings, must be handicap accessible if their certificate of first occupancy is after March 13, 1991. This means that these properties must have accessible doors, accessible routes to and from the property, accessible common areas, and reinforced walls in bathrooms capable of being modified to suit disability related add-ons.

Veterans who believe they were denied housing or were refused the right to make accommodations and modifications to their housing, should contact the Housing Rights Center (HRC) at (800) 477-5977. HRC can investigate allegations of housing discrimination and help victims of discrimination enforce their fair housing rights.