Budget plan boosts funding for homeless vets

President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 would make the largest investment to date in homeless veteran assistance programs. If passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law, this budget proposal would include:

  • $75 million in new vouchers for the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, bringing the total number of vouchers to more than 67,000. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would provide $278 million in case management support for the program, a $33.581 million increase over fiscal year 2013. The newest round of 10,000 vouchers from the full-year FY 2013 funding bill – signed into law March 26 – has not yet been awarded.
  • $250 million for the VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program, representing a $15 million increase over FY 2013. Additionally, VA has requested that the program be permanently authorized at $250 million.
  • $300 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program, the level at which the program is currently funded. VA has requested that the program be permanently authorized as well.
  • $38.185 million for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), the same funding level the Department of Labor (DoL) requested in FY 2013. HVRP is still subject to sequestration in FY 2013. These potential cuts, however, are eliminated in the department’s FY 2014 budget proposal.

To learn more about the hearing and to download the archived webcast, click here.

In the VA’s proposed FY 2014 budget, the department also makes the following legislative proposals:

  • Permanently authorize the grant program for homeless veterans with special needs. Additionally, VA has asked for permanent authority to provide capital grants through the program, and to raise the program’s per diem cap to twice the rate currently used by the GPD program.
  • Authorize a maximum GPD program per diem rate – 150 percent of the rate currently used by the program – to support the "Transition in Place" model toward permanent housing. Entities that receive this per diem would be required to replace each VA-funded transitional housing bed that is converted to permanent housing.

Resolution No. 306 states that The American Legion:

  • Renew its commitment to assisting homeless veterans and their families.
  • Continues to support the efforts of public and private sector agencies and organizations with the resources necessary to aid homeless veterans and their families.
  • Seeks and supports any legislative or administrative proposal that will provide medical, rehabilitative, and employment assistance to homeless veterans and their families.

In related news, the national rate of homelessness was 20 homeless people per 10,000 population, while the rate for veterans who are homeless was 29 per 10,000 population, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The organization held a press conference April 9 when it introduced its new report, "State of Homelessness in America 2013." The report provides a comprehensive, accurate and unique picture of the link between the number of people who are homeless and the economic and demographic factors that drive the problem.

In other news:

Testifying on veterans issues: The Economic Division testified on April 10 before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on the following pending pieces of legislation:

  • GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 357). The bill would eliminate financial burdens that are now endured by about 40,000 nonresident student veterans. Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill only covers in-state tuition rates, veterans being charged out-of-state rates must make up the difference themselves.
  • VRAP Extension Act of 2013 (H.R. 562). The legislation extends funding for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) so that veterans using the program are covered until the end of the 2014 spring semester.
  • Servicemembers’ Choice in Transition Act of 2013. This replaces the military’s Transition Assistance Program with the Transition Goals Plans Success (Transition GPS) program. Servicemembers would attend week-long classes that would emphasize financial planning, job-hunting skills, and how military work skills can apply to the private sector.
  • Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2013. This draft bill would improve and increase on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or veterans, especially for non-managerial employees.
  • VetSuccess Enhancement Act (H.R. 844). The bill extends the eligibility period for veterans with service-connected disabilities to enroll in certain Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment programs. The current 12-year eligibility period would be increased by five years, but The American Legion would prefer to see the time restriction eliminated altogether.
  • H.R. 1305. This bill provides clarification regarding eligibility for services under the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP). This is the only nationwide program that helps homeless veterans get back into the work force. Currently, DoL will not allow homeless veterans to participate in HVRP if they are living in a residence provided through the HUD-VASH voucher program. This bill would remove such a restriction.

Meetings with Congress: On April 9, members of The American Legion’s Washington office met separately with two members of Congress about veterans issues.

Economic Division staff met with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and his staff to discuss education policy and legislation, as well as military credentialing, current pilot programs and continued funding for these programs.

Economic and Legislative Division staff met with Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado and his staff to discuss the same issues outlined above.

Career fairs: On April 10, a Hiring our Heroes hiring event was held in Syracuse, N.Y. Through our efforts, we connected 31 employers with 87 job seekers from the local military population. This event would not have been possible without the assistance of the Department of New York, which assisted with outreach. Throughout the day, 226 resumes were collected, 60 interviews were conducted and one job was offered on-site. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also unveiled its online personal branding résumé engine for veterans. This resume builder assists with skills translation, formatting, and job search advice.

National security hearings: Staff attended the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea. An archived webcast of the proceedings can be viewed here.

On Thursday, staff attended the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s FY14 Defense Authorization Request. An archived webcast of the proceedings can be viewed here.

Keystone XL Pipeline: On April 9, staff submitted the Legion’s public comment KXL Public Comment.pdf on the Keystone XL pipeline to the State Department.

Healthcare: Warren J. Goldstein, senior national field service representative, and Ralph P. Bozella, chairman of the Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission and System Worth Saving Task Force conducted a site visit to the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., April 9-10. The staff also conducted a women veteran’s health care town hall meeting at American Legion Post 9 in Spokane.

Claims: During the week ending April 5, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached dispositions on 170 American Legion represented appeals. Of those dispositions, 76 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 52 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 77 cases, the Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims which mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 57 (22 percent) were outright denials.

POW/MIAs: President Obama on April 11 presented the Medal of Honor to a hero of the Korean War, an Army chaplain from Kansas who provided spiritual and medical aid to soldiers in the conflict. In a moving ceremony in the East Room of the White House, the president awarded the nation’s highest military award to a nephew of Capt. Emil Kapaun, who died in captivity more than 60 years ago, saying that the Kansas native was "an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who (carried) the mightiest weapon of all: the love for his brothers so powerful that he was willing to die so that they might live."