DAYTON, OH —With winter months closing in, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined a new plan to further support the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) goal of eliminating veteran homelessness by 2015. Brown also announced $3 million in new federal funding to provide health care, transportation, and personal financial planning to low-income veterans and their families that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
“Veterans who serve their country in order to protect our freedoms should never face homelessness,” Brown said. “This legislation would help Ohio veterans by providing additional resources to help keep them off the streets and start rebuilding their lives by finding transitional housing.”
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 62,619 homeless veterans were determined to be homeless during a “point-in-time” survey conducted on a single night in January 2012.
At today’s event at the Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio Dayton Veterans Resource Center, Brown outlined how the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act would improve prevention programs and increase the availability of transitional housing for female veterans. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Improve homelessness prevention programs by allowing the VA to develop public-private partnerships focused on increasing the availability of legal services available to homeless veterans to help obtain proper identification, representation before the court system, and assistance with legal issues associated with housing and family law. A recent VA survey found that lack of legal services was one of the top four unmet needs among homeless veterans.
- Increase transitional housing programs by establishing strict standards for grantees to meet the needs of female veterans by providing gender-specific housing. The Act would also help keep families together by allowing dependents in to transitional programs.
- Expand existing programs by increasing the current eligibility for the Homeless Veterans Dental Program to include HUD-VASH participants and reauthorizes several current VA programs that fund drop-in centers, rapid re-housing and transitional programs, and employment assistance.
Brown was joined at the press conference by Amanda Dipietro, a U.S. Army veteran and Montgomery County resident who struggled with homelessness before transitional housing and employment services helped her to rebuild her life. Dipietro is now employed at the Dayton VA Medical Center. Also joining Brown was Dennis Kresak, President and CEO of Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. Kresak discussed ongoing efforts in Dayton to address veterans’ homelessness and highlighted the impact VA grant funding has had in helping lift veterans out of homelessness.
“No veteran who has bravely served our country should ever struggle with homelessness,” Dennis Kresak, Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio President and CEO said. “We have a duty and obligation to help – and we do so by investing in homeless prevention programs for veterans and providing the necessary resources they need to get back on their feet.”
As the only Ohio Senator to serve a full term on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Brown has introduced a package of key legislative proposals aimed at addressing issues facing Ohio veterans. In July, Brown announced House introduction of his Mental-health Exposure Military Official Record Act (MEMORy Act) – a revised version of the Significant Event Tracker (SET) Act. The legislation would ensure that unit commanders document events that individual service members are exposed to which might later be connected to PTS, mTBI, or other injuries.
In response to the disability claims backlog, Brown has helped secure record funds and staffing for the VA to combat the backlog. In November 2013, Brown announced that key provisions of his Veterans Services Outreach (VSO) Act passed the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. The Act would require the VA to notify veterans filing claims electronically that they can receive help and important time-saving information that could significantly reduce their wait time. In August, Brown announced that he would also work to pass the Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2013, legislation that would hold the VA accountable by requiring it to publically report information on both its projected monthly goals and actual production so that Congress and the public knows if the VA is working toward eliminating its backlog. The bill would also establish a task force to hire and train claims processors, and develop tactics to attack and eliminate the backlog.