WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — It has been a long journey for Gulf War veteran Mario Figueroa. After three years battling for his benefits with the VA alongside CLSMF Veterans Advocacy Project attorney Chirsite Bhageloe, Mario was finally awarded 70% service-related disability rating in July 2015. The hard-working single father was so relieved that he would now be able to better care for his family. More good news followed when a few months later Halifax Habitat for Humanity chose him to be a recipient of their next housing project through a referral from Christie. “Habitat wanted to build a home for a low-income veteran and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving than Mr. Figueroa” she said.
Mario has been through his fair share of struggles in his lifetime. He joined the Navy right out of high school and served as a combat medic in the Gulf War. Soon after he was discharged in 1993, his son was born and he was left to raise him by himself. When Mario originally applied in 2010 for his service-related disability he was denied by the VA. “He is not the kind of person who just sits back and waits for disability to come in, he has always worked to maintain his family; he works at whatever he can find so that he can pay the bills” his attorney said when speaking about the frustrations of lengthy process of his case. The appeals process took Christie all the way to DC and back to the regional VA office, but all her effort on his behalf was worth it when the VA finally awarded Mario $44,000 in retroactive payment and $1,335/month for his service-related disability.
Then in October 2015, Halifax Habitat for Humanity held a groundbreaking ceremony for this home and construction began. Habitat for Humanity is not a “give-away” program, but rather a true “hand-up” that allows for the homeowner to be a part of their housing solution. As such, homeowners are expected to complete what they call “sweat equity” which are hours on the construction site which serves as the down-payment on the home. The organization sets a standard number of hours that the homeowners must contribute, but Mario was so grateful for this opportunity that he completed triple the required hours. He enjoyed it so much that he has decided to continue to volunteer for the organization and help give others in need a hand up in life. Mario and his family were handed the keys to the new home on April 18, 2016. Christie attended the house dedication ceremony to support her client. She said that it was “so nice to see good things finally happening to such an honest, hard-working veteran.” Christie also said she felt honored to have played a part in making a difference in his life.