Public Policy Action
During 2007, NCHV worked with Members of Congress and their staffs to ensure as many components of NCHV’s public policy priorities as possible were enacted before the first session of the 110th Congress ended in December.
Before adjournment, Congress approved and sent to President Bush the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, legislation that included eleven of the twelve annual funding bills. The bill became Public Law 110-161 on December 26, 2007.
The law includes three provisions that enhance homeless veterans programs. Under the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs appropriations section, not less than $130 million shall be expended for the homeless grants and per diem program. The VA Department’s Homeless Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program provides competitive grants to community-based, faith-based, and public organizations to offer transitional housing or service centers for homeless veterans.
The Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations section provides funding for two Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training programs including the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) and the Veterans Workforce Investment Programs (VWIP). The funding level is at $31,522,000 of which $7,482,000 is targeted for VWIP. HVRP is the only federal program wholly dedicated to providing employment assistance to homeless veterans and provides competitive grants to community-based, faith-based, and public organizations. VWIP provides grants to states and community-based, faith-based, and local public organizations to offer workforce services targeted to veterans with service connected disabilities, with active duty experience in a war or campaign, recently separated from the service, or facing significant barriers to employment (including homelessness).
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations section includes $75 million for 7,500 incremental vouchers for the joint HUD-VA Supported Housing Program (HUD-VASH) for homeless and disabled veterans. HUD-VASH provides permanent housing and ongoing treatment services to the harder-to-serve homeless mentally ill veterans and those suffering from substance abuse disorders.
VA Homeless Veterans Assistance Program Bills
No further action occurred in the House or Senate on two VA homeless veterans assistance program bill. In July, the House passed H.R. 2874, Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2007. S. 1233, Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Act of 2007, awaits consideration by the Senate. Both bills would expand and extend authority for the Incarcerated Veterans’ Transition Program (IVTP), a joint DOL and VA initiative authorized by Congress to assist veterans incarcerated in their reentry to the community; authorize the VA to make financial assistance available to nonprofit organizations to facilitate their provision of supportive services for very low-income veterans in permanent housing; and provide for permanent authority for domiciliary services for homeless veterans and enhance the VA’s capacity to provide domiciliary care for women veterans.
S. 1233 would also repeal authority for adjustments to per diem payments to homeless veteran service centers for receipt of other sources of income; make grant funds available to maintain adequate staffing for services in homeless veteran service centers; and require VA to conduct a demonstration program to identify veterans at risk of becoming homeless after discharge or separation from the armed services and provide referral and counseling services to help prevent such veterans from becoming homeless. H.R. 2874 would also reduce from 60 to 30 the number of days required for homeless veterans to be enrolled for and receive care in a VA program in order to be eligible for dental services.
Permanent Supportive Housing for Low Income Veterans
On December 5, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity conducted a hearing on Affordable Housing Needs of America’s Low Income Veterans. NCHV Chair George Basher testified along with HUD, VA and GAO officials and representatives from national housing and homeless groups and veteran service organizations. During the hearing, H.R. 3329, the Homes for Heroes Act of 2007, and H.R. 4161, the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Act, both introduced by Representative Al Green (D-9th-TX), a Financial Services Housing Subcommittee member, were discussed.
H.R. 3329 (also S. 1084 introduced by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)), would establish a supportive housing program for very low-income veterans, with housing assistance financed by HUD and supportive services financed by VA. H.R. 4161, a reduced version of the Homes for Heroes Act of 2007, would establish a pilot supportive housing program for very low-income veterans. Senator Obama introduced the same bill (S. 2330) in the Senate.