In gratitude for their courage and sacrifice for our nation, my office helps U.S. veterans access their medical and disability benefits and the overdue or replacement medals that they have earned for their military service. At a ceremony at the Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati last week – where I had the honor of presenting a Vietnam War veteran with seven medals, including the Purple Heart – we were all reminded of just how important it is to recognize the contributions of our nation’s veterans. Too often, veterans do not receive the thanks and appreciation that they have and which they deserve.
It is unacceptable that a large number of veterans face homelessness. These men and woman have served their country to protect our freedoms and we must ensure that they do not face life on the street.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set a goal to eliminate veteran homelessness nationwide by 2015 and we’re making progress. Since 2010, the number of veterans sleeping on the street has dropped 33 percent. Still, we have more work to do – even one homeless veteran is too many.
Last week, I visited the Commons at Livingston, a supportive housing facility in Columbus for those who have struggled with homelessness in the past. I was joined by a Columbus veteran who bravely shared his story of overcoming homelessness. It is heartbreaking to hear how we’ve let our veterans down. That’s why I’ve proposed legislation to help veterans secure permanent housing.
The Homeless Veterans Prevention Act would ease the transition to stable housing and allow the VA to increase legal aid to homeless veterans so they can receive help filing claims or getting identification. The Act would also provide services for homeless female veterans and their children. Because the majority of homeless veterans are male, many facilities cannot house female vets and their children, leaving them underserved with few options and little help. This means that the women who served our nation are often left with little or no options for help – and many families are forced to split up. This legislation would ensure that our servicewomen and their families would receive the help they need and deserve, while staying together.
We must ensure that legislation to combat veterans’ homelessness is a top priority. It is our responsibility to ensure that every veteran has a place to call home and the opportunity to succeed.