Bill to give homeless veterans aid to care for kids passes House unanimously

Abbie Bennett
October 15, 2019 - 2:45 pm
HomelessVeterans

Department of Veterans Affairs

When the Department of Veterans Affairs offers aid to homeless veterans, that aid could also extend to their children, if a bill that passed the House unanimously Tuesday also makes it through the Senate and receives a presidential signature.

The Homeless Veteran Families Act updates the VA’s per-day payment calculation for organizations that provide services to homeless veterans to include money for children. 

The money from VA comes in daily payments or “per diem” and the bill would increase that daily payment amount for a homeless veteran by about 50 percent for each child. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Women Veteran Task Force, came to a vote following a Congressional hearing where advocates told members of Congress that women veterans who are homeless are less likely to seek help because they fear losing their children. 

Women veterans are the fastest-growing group in the military, but they're also the fastest-growing group of homeless veterans and are more likely than men to be single parents, according to the Defense Department and VA. 

From 2016 to 2017, the number of homeless women veterans increased by 7 percent, compared to 1 percent of male veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates. 

The rate of women veteran homelessness has more than doubled since 2006. 

"It is critical that vets and their families receive the housing support they need to simply get back on their feet," Brownley said. "Unfortunately, many homeless veterans with children are unable to obtain assistance because (support groups) only receive funding from VA for the veteran, not their children. The veteran is forced to choose between getting their own housing assistance and caring for their ... children. No veteran should be forced to choose between housing ... and caring for their children."

"This could be some of the best money we ever spend if it keeps these families together ... this bill should go through the house and senate unanimous," House Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said. 

Another bill, the Housing for Women Veterans Act, sponsored by another House Veterans Affairs member and California Democrat, Rep. Mike Levin along with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., would allocate at least $20 million to groups aiming to help women veterans and their families. 

Homeless women veterans are afraid to be separated from their children if they seek help, advocates say

Women veterans are the fastest-growing group of homeless vets. This bill aims to help.

Also on Tuesday, the House: 

  • Approved by floor vote a bill to allow the VA to establish a grant program for cemetery research and for educational materials for the Veterans Legacy Program. The Legacy program is an online memorial space managed by the National Cemetery Administration, with a profile page for each service member. 
  • Approved by voice vote the VA Website Accessibility Act, which directs the VA to study how accessible the department’s websites are for people with disabilities. 
  • Approved by voice vote a bill to name the VA community-based outpatient clinic in Odessa, Texas the “Wilson and Young Medal of Honor VA Clinic.” The clinic would be named for Vietnam veterans Marine Corps Private First Class Alfred “Mac” Wilson and Army Staff Sgt. Marvin “Rex” Young. Wilson and Young were posthumously awarded Medals of Honor. Wilson received his when his platoon was ambushed and he threw himself on an enemy hand grenade to protect his fellow marines. Young received his for his actions when his platoon came under heavy fire, their leader was killed and he assumed command, saving the platoon and rescuing men who were pinned down, sustaining fatal wounds in the process. 

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.