Ensuring Homeless Veterans Access to Services

Senate Passes Bill

Senator Patty MurrayOn October 29, 2015, the Senate passed by unanimous consent the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act of 2015 (S. 1731) preserving the eligibility of homeless veterans with “other than honorable” (OTH) discharges or less than two years of continuous military service to receive homeless services through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The bill, introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), now heads to the House for consideration.

For decades, veterans with OTH discharges or less than two years of military service had received services through the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) and Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) programs.

However, the VA has indicated it is planning to make a policy change that would have made these veterans ineligible for such homeless services. The VA threatened to make this policy change last year, leading some homeless shelters and providers receiving GPD funds to turn away veterans who would no longer meet the eligibility requirements.

S. 1731 prevents the VA from instituting this change in policy and clarifies Congress’s intent that the GPD and SSVF programs serve these veterans.

“According to some of our leading veterans and homeless groups – including The American Legion, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – if the policy was enacted, the VA would have had to stop serving about 15 percent of the homeless veteran population, and in certain urban areas, up to 30 percent of homeless veterans would be turned away. My bill would ensure that our most vulnerable veterans would be assured continued access to critical homeless services and programs, regardless of their discharge status or length of service.”

Senator Murray stated on the Senate floor.

Click here to learn more about the bill.

Click here to read Senator Murray’s floor statement.

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