National Coalition of Homeless Veterans
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Congressional Update

3/8/2010

NCHV Legislative Priorities - Second Session Starts Strongly

The second session of the 111th Congress is officially underway, and despite being snowed out for almost a week by back-to-back blizzards, the Senate has made major progress on homeless veterans legislation. On Jan. 28, the committee print of Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)’s Homeless Veterans and Other Health Care Authorities Act of 2010 – S. 1237 – was ordered to be reported favorably by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The original, express intent of S. 1237 was to:

  • Create a program, authorized at $10 million, to provide employment assistance to women veterans and veterans with dependent children.
  • Expand the Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD) by including male homeless veterans with minor dependents as a new category.

This language remains unchanged in the committee print. Several new elements, however, have been added to the bill, most notably provisions from Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)’s Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009, S. 1547.

The new bill, which has been expanded to include sections on toxic substances exposure and other health care matters, now contains a section called “Homeless Veterans Matters” that addresses the following:

  • Allows the Secretary of Veterans Affairs one year to complete a study of per diem payments and develop an improved method to reimburse GPD grant recipients.
  • Increases GPD authorization to $200 million.
  • Instructs the Secretary to establish a program to prevent veteran homelessness.
  • Develops the Homeless Veterans Management Information System.
  • Builds out the Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program to 60,000 vouchers by fiscal year (FY) 2013.
  • Creates a Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs in HUD’s Office of the Secretary.

A unanimously approved amendment from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) would ensure that at least five percent of grant funds – for the GPD and women veterans employment assistance (to be created via the bill’s passage) programs – are awarded to eligible rural entities.

In early February, NCHV Central Office staff met with a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee staffer and was informed that a report on S. 1237 is currently being prepared, and the bill should be forwarded to the full Senate by spring.

House Bills Recap

Four major House bills, which have yet to be acted upon during the second session, reflect some of the critical provisions outlined in S. 1237. Here is a quick recap of those bills:

  • H.R. 2504, introduced by Harry Teague (D-NM), would increase GPD authorization to $200 million.
  • H.R. 2559, the Help Our Homeless Veterans Act, introduced by Phil Hare (D-IL), would direct the VA Secretary to carry out a national media campaign directed toward homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.
  • H.R. 2735, introduced by Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), would change the GPD rate of payment from a per diem to an annual cost of providing services.
  • H.R. 3906, also introduced by Rep. Teague, would increase the authorization for supportive services to prevent homelessness to $100 million by FY 2014 and thereafter.

President’s FY 2011 Budget

On a final note, President Barack Obama submitted his FY 2011 budget to Congress on Feb. 1. The budget includes a proposed $125 billion for the VA, $4.2 billion of which will reduce and help prevent homelessness among veterans. Of that $4.2 billion figure, $3.4 billion would go toward core medical services; the remaining $799 million would go toward specific homeless programs and expanded medical care, including $294 million for expanded homeless initiatives.

The budget proposal also designates $41.3 million for DOL’s Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP), a $5 million increase over FY 2010.

These FY 2011 figures mark a dramatic increase in funding for VA homeless programs. If the President’s Budget is approved by Congress, VA programs for homeless veterans will have doubled over the last two years.

Regularly check our site (www.nchv.org) for updates as Congress hashes out the FY 2011 budget this year.


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