Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vets Helping Upgrade Homes of Other Disabled Vets

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

In 2008, two vets pooled their military disability payments to launch Purple Heart Homes, a nonprofit company which modifies or helps work on homes for disabled vets on the East Coast.

Dale Beatty, a vet with prosthetic legs from his time in combat in Iraq, spent a year recovering at Walter Reed, then came home. He had planned to build a house for his wife and children when he returned home, but working in construction with prosthetic legs, and sometimes in a wheelchair, made working harder than he had planned on. Members of his church stepped in and helped build a wheelchair-accessible home for Beatty while he supervised. Beatty also called a building contractor and friend, John Gallina, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury while driving a Humvee in Iraq – in the same blast that cost Beatty his legs. Beatty, Gallina and the work crew finished Beatty's home, and the project was such a success that the two men decided to "pay it forward" for other disabled veterans.   They have so far worked on homes for 17 disabled vets. Thousands more, says Beatty, could use similar help.

Though many nonprofit groups have developed to offer housing assistance specially too vets of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the two wars only account for less than 15 percent of the vets in the U.S. The organization formed by Beatty and Gallina is offering assistance to any disabled vet from any military service, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. One such veteran was Dave Morrell, based in North Carolina. Morrell lost a leg due to Agent Orange exposure during his three tours in Vietnam.  His home was not accessible; he often had to crawl into his bathroom because his wheelchair wouldn't fit through the doorway. Though they simply could have widened the doorways, they instead built a new addition to the home and a new, accessible bathroom.

Purple Heart Homes uses labor and materials donated by the public to help any disabled vet, from building ramps to renovating bathrooms. They also make repairs for free.

Beatty and Gallina have stated that they also aim to help vets purchase their own homes. Purple Heart Homes has built several custom homes, and also has a program which moves vets into foreclosed properties that have been donated by banks and renovated by volunteers. The community involvement is a huge part of Purple Heart Homes' approach; bringing local people into the projects helps to build social connection.

Purple Heart Homes currently had 12 new projects currently under construction, and 13 more scheduled soon. 

For more information about Purple Heart Homes, go to


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