Sen. Murray’s Bill to Help Homeless Veterans Clears Hurdle in the Senate,...

Sen. Murray’s Bill to Help Homeless Veterans Clears Hurdle in the Senate, Heads to House Next

Murray’s bill would prevent VA policy from kicking in that could put homeless veterans on the street
Includes amendment to increase availability of care for homeless veterans with children
MURRAY: “My bill makes it clear that our country takes care of those who have served, and that we don’t allow bureaucracy to dictate who gets a roof over their head and who doesn’t”

Washington, D.C.– November 2, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Senate unanimously passed Senator Patty Murray’s bill, the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act. The bill would prevent a VA policy from taking effect that would overturn the way homeless veterans have been helped for more than 20 years, by barring homeless services for veterans who served fewer than two years continuously, or certain veterans who had less than an honorable discharge. Before the bill passed, Sen. Murray spoke on the Senate floor. Video here.

Sen. Murray introduced the bill earlier this year in response to an expected change in VA’s legal opinion which would conclude that veterans who served fewer than two years or had certain less than honorable discharges may not be eligible for homeless assistance programs. As a result, when the VA threatened to institute the policy change last year, homeless shelters and providers who receive funding through the VA’s Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program were told to turn away homeless veterans who didn’t meet the length of service or discharge requirements. The Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act that passed the Senate today would ensure that in the future, veterans will not be turned away from homeless programs because they don’t meet certain length of service or discharge requirements, and that our country is fulfilling our promise to care for servicemembers and veterans. The next step is for the bill to be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“We promise our men and women in uniform the country will be there for them after they leave service—and sometimes that means long after the war is over. But I’m concerned our country is about to turn its back on thousands of veterans – and I’m here to say we have to fix it.”

“…unfortunately, M. President, the VA is expected to announce their final decision, any day now—that the reprieve is over and they are going to have to go ahead with this change—and force homeless providers to turn away veterans who have nowhere else to go – veterans these providers have been serving for decades. This is just wrong. This policy change would be a heartless, bureaucratic move that would put thousands of veterans on the streets—practically overnight. And it needs to be stopped.”

“My bill makes it clear that our country takes care of those who have served, and that we don’t allow bureaucracy to dictate who gets a roof over their head and who doesn’t. But it is critical we act now. VA has said it would issue this legal decision in November—which could put thousands of veterans on the street.”

“M. President, our veterans make great sacrifices serving our country, and we can never turn our backs on them when they come home. This commitment includes providing benefits, medical care, support, and assistance to prevent homelessness. And it’s a commitment that doesn’t stop simply because we run into a policy roadblock.”

“So M. President—I am hoping that Democrats and Republicans join me today to right this wrong and prevent this problem from happening. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue—it shouldn’t be a political issue. It’s a veterans issue. And it’s one that should bring us all together.”

Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared:

“M. President, I’d like to take a few moments to speak about an issue that is very important to me – the care of our nation’s veterans. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I realize what it means for a family member to be willing to sacrifice their life for their country.

“We promise our men and women in uniform the country will be there for them after they leave service—and sometimes that means long after the war is over. But I’m concerned our country is about to turn its back on thousands of veterans – and I’m here to say we have to fix it.

“M. President, last year, the VA told homeless service providers that they needed to cut off services to certain veterans, who had other-than-honorable discharges or had not served a certain length of time. If this policy had been enacted, it would have been a major setback for veterans across the country.

“It would have set us back on our goal of ending veteran homelessness, a goal the Administration has set for itself and hundreds of mayors around the country have committed to. And it would have been simply unacceptable. These are veterans who need our support. Many of them struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, or simply finding employment.

“According to some of our leading veterans and homeless groups – including The American Legion, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – if the policy was enacted, the VA would have had to stop serving about 15 percent of the homeless veteran population, and in certain urban areas, up to 30 percent of homeless veterans would be turned away.

“So M. President, thankfully, after hearing concern from around the country, including from my home state of Washington, the VA was able to put that off that terrible policy change. But unfortunately, M. President, the VA is expected to announce their final decision, any day now—that the reprieve is over and they are going to have to go ahead with this change—and force homeless providers to turn away veterans who have nowhere else to go – veterans these providers have been serving for decades. This is just wrong. This policy change would be a heartless, bureaucratic move that would put thousands of veterans on the streets—practically overnight. And it needs to be stopped.

“Now M. President, the VA is going to enact this policy when the final decision is made – and Congress needs to act to stop this from happening. So earlier this year I introduced the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act. My bill would ensure that our most vulnerable veterans would be assured continued access to critical homeless services and programs, regardless of their discharge status or length of service. In other words—it would fix the problem that the VA says it has, and make sure they don’t have to cut homeless veterans off from care.

“My bill makes it clear that our country takes care of those who have served, and that we don’t allow bureaucracy to dictate who gets a roof over their head and who doesn’t. But it is critical we act now. VA has said it would issue this legal decision in November—which could put thousands of veterans on the street.

“We are running out of time, but the solution to this crisis is before us – let’s pass the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act. M. President, I don’t believe there is any member of this body who would deny our obligation to ensure that veterans are taken care of and have a roof over their head.

“And while our country has made great strides in recent years providing homeless services to the men and women who have so bravely served our country – I believe that even ONE veteran sleeping on the streets in the United States is one too many. But we know we still have a lot of work to do. Veterans are at greater risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans, and on any given night as many as 50,000 veterans are homeless across the United States. And with an influx of veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan– the number of veterans seeking care will continue to go up.

“In short – this problem isn’t going away. M. President, our veterans make great sacrifices serving our country, and we can never turn our backs on them when they come home. This commitment includes providing benefits, medical care, support, and assistance to prevent homelessness. And it’s a commitment that doesn’t stop simply because we run into a policy roadblock.

“And I am pleased to call this up with a Heller amendment, which is the text of S. 1105, a bill I strongly support. This provision will increase the availability of care for homeless veterans with children, by reimbursing facilities funded by the VA Grant and Per Diem program. I thank Senator Heller for his leadership on this issue, and I also want to thank Senator Isakson, and Senator Blumenthal for their leadership on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and for their support today.

“So M. President—I am hoping that Democrats and Republicans join me today to right this wrong and prevent this problem from happening. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue—it shouldn’t be a political issue.

“It’s a veterans issue. And it’s one that should bring us all together. We can act now to pass the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act and make sure a policy change doesn’t force our veterans on to the street. And I am hoping we can get this done.”

Previous articleA.G. Schneiderman And DOI Commissioner Peters Announce The Conviction And Sentencing Of NYC Housing Authority Subcontractor For Underpayment Of Wages To Workers
Next articleHoeven Announces $50K in Federal Funding to Assist Low-Income Homeowners in Pembina County