Christine Benne opened the doors of her Manhattan home Tuesday to U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.
Moran toured Christine’s home, remodeled for better accessibility for her late husband, Paul, a veteran. Paul, who was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease called Multi Symptom Atrophy, Cerebellar Type-C, died in December.
President Donald Trump earlier this month signed legislation crafted by Moran into law. The bill, which increases Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) eligibility for blind and seriously injured veterans, is called the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019.
“It was nice to be able to honor Paul in naming the bill in recognition of his service,” Moran said. “In part in recognition of his family’s efforts to help him and other veterans.”
The bill will allow blind veterans to access the SAH program and increase the number of awarded grants from three to six per year for veterans. The legislation also increases the number of applications per year from 30 to 120.
“So this is a special story for the Bennes,” Moran said. “But there’s lot of families who never expected ... (to) end up in the circumstances because they served their country. And what you see is people, family in this case, who rally to make sure that the best of that circumstance came into their lives. And it’s a reminder for all of us, certainly a family responsibility, but an obligation we all have.”
Moran helped the Benne family secure funding for the renovations after Christine reached out to him for assistance, which led to the creation of the bill.
“The legislation is important, but the accomplishment is not the legislation, the accomplishment is Paul in the latter couple years of his life had a better life as a result of Christine’s efforts to make sure that he got what he was entitled to, what he deserved,” Moran said.
The goal for Moran is to help solve problems for veterans.
“My responsibility is to help every veteran and his or her family to have a better life, to give them greater opportunities that they’ve given me and my family,” Moran said.
Before the renovations, it was difficult for Paul to get around the house, which he originally designed, Christine said.
“For us to get inside and outside the house, it was really hard, and we had to come through the garage,” Christine said.
Renovations included the front door area, widening of hallways and doorways and creating a larger bathroom, shower and closet for Paul. The front door to the home originally had steps, so contractors made it flat, so Paul could get through the front door in his wheelchair.
“But his ability to move throughout the house he built, I think that gave him a lot of freedom,” she said. “... He didn’t feel stuck.”
Christine is moving to another home in Manhattan and just sold the home to a family with a disabled person.
“It is really nice that this house is going to someone who could use it,” Christine said. “And that’s what Paul would have wanted, more than anything, is that all this stuff that he was able to use, someone needs to use it.”