National Coalition of Homeless Veterans
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Congressional Update

12/28/2010

Historic Achievements and High-Water Marks
111th Congress recap

Our recap of the 111th Congress (January 2009 - December 2010) gives due recognition to historic achievements, “high-water marks,” and missed opportunities alike. Overall, there was much to be proud of in this Congress. A couple of monumental bills, however, failed to be signed into law.

Up until the end of this Congress, appropriations had helped advance this administration’s Five-Year Plan to End Homelessness among Veterans. A string of continuing resolutions, continuing the federal budget at fiscal year (FY) 2010 levels, have replaced what would have been (based off the proposed House and Senate bills) impressive FY 2011 appropriations for homeless veterans programs. The 112th Congress, whose inaugural session will be held on January 5th, will inherit the responsibility of passing a federal budget for FY 2011, now three months underway.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) has not significantly altered its priorities for homeless veterans legislation in the 112th Congress – the best elements of S. 1237 and H.R. 4810 (111th) still remain vital.

Achievements

In this past Congress, homeless veterans programs received more funding than ever before in our history. The nation’s largest homeless veterans program, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD), was expanded to accept applications from deserving yet disadvantaged service providers.

Additionally, a long-term authorization was passed for a program to reintegrate homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

These were some of the highlights among an array of accomplishments:

  • $3.2 billion in FY 2010 for health care and support services for homeless veterans, including:
    • $150 million for the GPD.
    • $26 million for a presidential initiative to combat homelessness.
    • $21 million to hire additional personnel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program.
    • $20 million for supportive services for low-income veterans and families.
  • $50 million to renovate vacant buildings on VA campuses to be used as supportive housing for homeless veterans.
  • Reauthorization of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) through FY 2011. The program was funded at an all-time high of $36 million in 2010.
  • $75 million for approximately 10,000 VASH vouchers in both FY 2009 and 2010.

These achievements are commendable and have set a great precedent for the 112th Congress which will have to keep up with this pace in order to end homelessness among veterans in the next four years. But there is much to be done if this goal is to be reached.

Missed opportunities

In the 111th Congress, S. 1237, the Homeless Veterans and Other Veterans Health Care Authorities Act of 2010, and H.R. 4810, the End Veteran Homelessness Act of 2010 – the two major homeless veterans bills – could not work their way out of the Senate.

H.R. 4810, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 413-0, was neither acted upon by nor released from the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee because of the status of S. 1237, opposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) without an offset to the cost of the bill: $3.4 billion over 2010-2015.
With no Senate floor time being allotted to this bill, there was no formal opportunity for any senator to offer an amendment to offset these costs.

State of appropriations

An unsuccessful Senate omnibus appropriations bill, released in December 2010, nonetheless contained impressive numbers for homeless veterans programs, including:

  • $217 million for the GPD.
  • $151 million for HUD-VASH.
  • $50.56 million for supportive services for low-income veterans and families in FY 2011 and FY 2012.
  • $41.3 million for HVRP.
  • Additional money to renovate VA buildings to provide housing for homeless veterans.

A fourth continuing resolution was signed into law on Dec. 22 to fund the federal government at mostly FY 2010 levels through March 4, 2011. Both (failed) House and Senate FY 2011 appropriations bills would have significantly increased funding for homeless veterans programs. It will now be up to the 112th Congress to pass those appropriations.

In closing…

NCHV is developing its policy platform for the 112th Congress but has not significantly altered its priorities for homeless veterans legislation. The best elements of S. 1237 and H.R. 4810 would keep our nation on track to end veterans homelessness within five years.


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