Lawmakers suggest new rules for Iowa Veterans Fund grants

DES MOINES — A group of lawmakers is recommending that new guidelines be developed for grants from the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund. The grants are for things like car or home repairs or medical expenses.

During a meeting of the Administrative Rules Review Committee, Republican Senator Mike Klemish of Spillville said there could be different metrics than just income and asset tests, so the grants can address true emergencies. “I would recommend formulating a rubric which gives you some flexibility in how you score those applications,” Klemish said.

Republican Representative Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids, chair of the panel, said the “bright line tests” of a veteran’s income and assets are causing problems. “Maybe there need to be different qualifiers or different processes by which these funds are distributed,” Jones said.

The Iowa Veterans Commission ran out of money when it raised income and asset tests for the grants and the governor used pandemic relief funds to address the deficit. Fund managers are recommending grants again be limited to veterans at no more than 200% of the federal poverty level who have no more than $15,000 in assets that could be quickly converted into cash.

“So in other words we don’t have somebody sitting there with $20,000 available in their bank account or available to support a requirement and then they come to us for $5000 to repair their vehicle,” Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Commandant Todd Jacobus said. “If you have that amount of money available, then you don’t necessarily have an emergency that the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund should cover.”

Jacobus told the committee veterans are “keenly aware” of the grants are limited to low income veterans and removing these restrictions would likely prompt “a flood” of applications. “Somebody who has $50,000 in the bank, I guarantee you they are going to submit an application to get additional funds from the state,” he said.

Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the Education Savings Accounts Republicans established to cover parents’ private school expenses will soon have no income or asset limits and this program for veterans should abandon its plan to limit who qualifies. “I think this is one that just needs to go back to the drawing board,” Boulton said, “and shouldn’t go any further.”

According to the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 185,000 veterans living in Iowa and 6% of them are at or below the federal poverty line.