Last week, AUSN met with the staff of Senator Mark Begich to discuss AUSN priority legislation, including addressing the problem of homeless veterans in the United States.
On any given single night, for 2011, 67,495 homeless veterans spent the night on the streets of America and an estimated 144,842 Veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in one recent year. Many other Veterans are considered at risk of homelessness because of poverty, lack of support from family and friends, substance use or mental health issues, and precarious living conditions. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a website dedicated to informing and assisting those who suffer from homelessness or are threatened by it.
In the meeting with Senator Begich’s office, AUSN learned of the House companion bill, H.R. 4287, introduced by Representative Janice Hahn (D-CA-36), which the Senate bill, S. 3049, includes the same language that would include as a homeless veteran, for purposes of eligibility for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a veteran or 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. Both bills seek to decrease homeless veterans through including stronger parameters for VA to consider.
AUSN sent the following letter of support to Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and the House companion bill sponsor, Representative Janice Hahn (D-CA-36).
The Honorable Mark Begich (AK)
United States Senate
111 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Begich,
On behalf of the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), we applaud and support your introduction, along with Senator Boozman, of S. 3049 which would amend Title 38 to expand the definition of “homeless veteran,” providing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) a wider scope in caring for our nation’s homeless veterans.
Today only about 8% of our nation holds veterans status, but 30% or higher of our nations homeless are veterans themselves. This uneven ratio can be directly related to the types of hardships one endures during their military service, as an overwhelming majority of these veterans suffer from mental illnesses, alcohol and drug addictions and co-occurring disorders. Even more disheartening is the VA’s suggestion that while anywhere from 130,000 to 400,000 veterans are homeless every year; there is an additional 1.5 million veterans that are at high risk of becoming homeless in the coming year.
By introducing this bipartisan legislation, you have shown a strong commitment to help ease and end homelessness amongst veterans. With the amount of homeless veterans increasing, due to a wide range of conditions, it is imperative that the VA expand the definition of a homeless veteran to include new parameters. Your bill, for purposes of eligibility for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), would include in the definition of homeless veterans, a veteran or veteran's family fleeing domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the current housing situation. This would also include situations where the health and safety of children are jeopardized and there is no other residence as well as the lack of resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing,
Thank you for taking an active role in such an important issue to the veteran community, by introducing legislation to ease the hardship of our veterans by expanding the scope of VA’s definition of homeless veterans. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at 703-548-5800.
Anthony A. Wallis
Legislative Director, AUSN
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