Tester, Young, Murphy Introduce Bill to Curb Veteran Homelessness
Senators’ bipartisan Veterans HOUSE Act expands eligibility for HUD-VASH program to more veterans with OTH discharges
(U.S. Senate) - In an effort to curb veteran homelessness across the country, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today introduced the Veteran Housing Opportunities and Unemployment Support Extension (HOUSE) Act, a bipartisan bill allowing veterans with Other-Than-Honorable (OTH) discharges to participate in the Department of Housing and Urban Development - VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
Studies show that veterans with OTH discharges are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than other veterans; even though only about five percent of separating service members receive an OTH discharge, they make up a quarter of the total homeless veteran population. Under current law, veterans with OTH discharges are unable to access VA case management services and are therefore denied housing vouchers under the HUD-VASH program. The Senators' bill expands access to vital HUD-VASH case management services, connecting chronically homeless veterans with the resources they need to find employment and housing.
"We need to do everything we can to end veteran homelessness," said Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tester. "The reality is that OTH veterans face a much greater risk of mental health disorders, homelessness, and suicide. Our bill ensures that these veterans in Montana and across the country are able to get back on their feet, put a roof over their heads, and find good paying jobs."
"This legislation will help ensure that many more chronically homeless veterans receive the housing support they deserve," said Senator Young. "I will continue to work to solve the housing affordability crisis for all Hoosiers."
"It is unconscionable that we allow our veterans who have put their lives on the line for our safety and security to become homeless," said Senator Murphy. "We've made progress, but far too many veterans are chronically homeless or unable to access to resources they need. I'm proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill to allow other-than-honorable veterans to gain access to VA homeless services and HUD-VASH vouchers. This is the least we can do to thank them for their service to our nation."
The Veteran HOUSE Act is supported by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Alliance to End Homelessness, The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, and the National Housing Law Project.
"We appreciate the strong, bipartisan leadership from Senators Tester, Young, and Murphy for their introduction of legislation that would expand the eligibility for the highly successful HUD-VASH program to additional veterans who are experiencing chronic homelessness," said the National Alliance to End Homelessness. "The combination of housing and services provided by the HUD-VASH program continues to help tens of thousands of American military personnel and their families rebuild their lives and restore their futures. We urge the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs to mark up this important legislation and move it forward at the earliest opportunity."
"The HUD-VASH program has been a critical component of our nation's response to veteran homelessness," said the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV). "NCHV thanks Senators Tester, Murphy, and Young, and the House sponsors of this legislation for leading the effort to make them available to more veterans. Equitable access for any veteran without a dishonorable discharge will help communities serve some of the most vulnerable unsheltered veterans. NCHV looks forward to swift passage of this legislation."
Tester has led the effort to expand mental health care for OTH veterans in Congress. In May, he spearheaded a letter to Secretary Robert Wilkie, urging VA to properly train VA personnel and conduct outreach to veterans under the Honor Our Commitment Act, a bipartisan bill which provides mental and behavioral healthcare to certain veterans with OTH discharges.