Veterans Day 2013

soldiers

In the USA, Veterans Day annually falls on November 11. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day. Today is Veterans Day. With that being said, this post will speak to one of the many challenges confronting an alarming number of America’s veterans—homelessness.

Given their sacrifices for our nation, the number of veterans that are either homeless or at risk of homelessness is as my grandmother would say “a sin and a shame”. Here in the United Sates there approximately 1.5 million veterans that are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. According to the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) there are over 67,000 homeless veterans on any given night.[i] Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness.[ii] Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.[iii]

Why are veterans homeless?
In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.[iv]

A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Although “most homeless people are single, unaffiliated men… most housing money in existing federal homelessness programs, in contrast, is devoted to helping homeless families or homeless women with dependent children,” as is stated in the study “Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?”[v] (Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).

What services do veterans need?
Like most homeless persons, veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance. Service providers assert that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.

What can you do to help homeless veterans?•
Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless veteran providers. Contact your mayor’s office for a list of providers, or search the National Coalition for the Homeless.
•Engage Friends/Family: Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in attacking this issue.
•Help: Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are, there is one in your community. If not, this could be the time to bring people together around this critical need.
•Donate: Make a donation to your local homeless veteran provider.
•Advocate: Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans.

Relevant Legislation in Congress:
United States House of Representatives
H.R. 136 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow taxpayers to designate a portion of their income tax payment to provide assistance to homeless veterans, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Jan. 1, 2011)
•Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow individual taxpayers to designate on their tax returns $3 of income taxes ($6 in the case of joint returns) to provide assistance to homeless veterans.

H.R. 287 – Homes for Heroes Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Al Green (D-TX)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means (Jan. 12, 2011)
•Expands the supply of supportive housing for very low-income veteran families.
•Authorizes an annual budget increase needed to provide 20,000 additional rental vouchers each fiscal year.
•Extends VA-supported housing, which is currently limited to homeless veterans with chronic mental illness or chronic substance use disorders, to all homeless veterans.

H.R. 806 – End Veteran Homelessness Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Feb. 18, 2011)
•Increases GPD authorization to $200 million in FY 2011.
•Changes GPD reimbursement from a “per diem” to an annual cost of providing services.
•Requires each VA medical center providing case management services through the HUD-VASH program to hire a specialist to handle housing issues, including: ◦Outreach to landlords.
◦Mediation of veteran/landlord disputes.
◦Establishing and maintaining a list of available rental units.

•Authorizes $100 million by FY 2014 for supportive services for very low-income veteran families in permanent housing.
•Promotes awareness of VA programs to assist homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

H.R. 1133 – Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health (April 1, 2011), as well as the Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity (April 4, 2011)
•Authorizes VA to enter into agreements with organizations to collaborate in the provision of case management services to veterans in the HUD-VASH program.

H.R. 4287 – To expand the definition of homeless veteran for purposes of benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Sponsor: Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA)
Action: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (March 28, 2012)
•Expands VA’s definition of “homeless veteran” – for the purpose of benefits eligibility – to include a veteran of veteran’s family fleeing domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized, there is no other residence, and there is a lack of resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.

United States Senate
S. 411 – Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011
Sponsor: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Feb. 17, 2011)
•Authorizes VA to enter into agreements with organizations to collaborate in the provision of case management services to veterans in the HUD-VASH program.

S. 1060 – Honoring All Veterans Act of 2011
Sponsor: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Action: Hearing held by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (June 8, 2011)
•Changes GPD reimbursement from a “per diem” to an annual cost of providing services.
•Extends enhanced protections for service members relating to mortgages and mortgage foreclosure.

S. 1148 – Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2011
Sponsor: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Action: Hearing held by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (June 8, 2011)

Reauthorizes critical programs such as the following:
◦DOL-VETS Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP).
◦VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD), as well as the related Special Needs grant program.
◦VA Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program.
•Orders VA to study and restructure the GPD reimbursement rate.
•Expands the VA Special Needs grant program to include male homeless veterans with minor dependents, as well as allowing dependents of all veterans in those programs to receive services directly.

S. 3049 – To expand the definition of homeless veteran for purposes of benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Sponsor: Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
Action: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (May 9, 2012)
•Expands VA’s definition of “homeless veteran” – for the purpose of benefits eligibility – to include a veteran of veteran’s family fleeing domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized, there is no other residence, and there is a lack of resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.

Source(s): http://www.govtrack.us. http://www.congress.org. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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[i] National Coalition for the Homeless

[ii] National Coalition for the Homeless

[iii] National Coalition for the Homeless

[iv] National Coalition for the Homeless

[v] Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).

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