Communities Help Build Homes for Wounded Iraq War Vets

Michelle Senatore is on a lifesaving mission, volunteering her time to help injured service members adjust once they return home.

Thanks to Senatore and the people of Wheaton, Ill., who helped her raise the money, one badly injured soldier, Sgt. Joel Gomez, will receive a new home free of charge.

"The whole house is wheelchair accessible," Senatore said. "It's just gonna give him a huge mental boost. It's gonna give him a lot of sense of independence."

In March of last year, Gomez was paralyzed from the neck down after his vehicle rolled into the Tigris River in Iraq.

He survived the accident, but when Senatore met him a few months later at his apartment, she knew it was too small to accommodate his 400-pound wheelchair.

She was also unhappy with the care offered by a Veterans Affairs hospital.

So with Gomez's agreement, she moved him to the private Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, which in turn is providing him free care.

While Senatore is proud of the way her community rallied to support this soldier of misfortune, she says she wonders why the need exists in the first place.

"Why do we have to do this? Why does the community have to do this? Why isn't the system prepared for this?" she said.

VA Facing Financial Strain

The VA is dealing with an increasing number of wounded troops without a commensurate increase in funding from Congress.

The VA's maximum home-building grant, for example, is $50,000. But Gomez's house -- with technology geared to the disabled -- costs almost $500,000.

John Gonsalves' Massachusetts-based organization, Homes for Our Troops, is also providing homes for badly disabled veterans. They've built five homes so far, but he expects hundreds more will be needed.

"Thirty, 40 years ago, $50,000 would have done quite a bit for you, but not now," Gonsalves said.

Like Senatore, he too wonders why Congress and the White House won't do more to help injured vets.

"If we can ask our veterans to go overseas and put life and limb on the line, there's no reason we can't build houses for them," Gonsalves said.

As for Gomez, he gets a new address this week.

"I'm really excited to move into my new house because everything is specially adapted for me," he said.

Gomez said twice how blessed he felt -- and compared to other badly wounded servicemen and women -- he may well be.

ABC News' Dean Reynolds filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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