TOLEDO, OH — With colder temperatures arriving, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – visited Griffin House, an apartment complex serving homeless veterans, today to outline a plan to further support the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) goal of eliminating veteran homelessness by 2015.
“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.”
Brown was joined by Jed Flint, a northwest Ohio Army veteran who was homeless and struggling with substance abuse issues until receiving help from the VA. Jennifer Cawthorn-Mapes, the property manager at Griffin House, also discussed efforts to provide supportive services for veterans struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 62,619 veterans were determined to be homeless during a “point-in-time” survey conducted on a single night in January 2012.
Brown outlined how The Homeless Veterans Prevention Act would improve homelessness prevention programs by developing public-private partnerships focused on increasing the availability of legal services to homeless veterans; expanding transitional housing opportunities to include increased resources and eligibility for female veterans and veterans with dependents; and increasing existing programs. 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 into transitional programs.
- Expand existing programs by increasing the current eligibility for the Homeless Veterans Dental Program to include HUD-Veterans Affairs Supporting Housing (HUD-VASH) participants and reauthorizes several current VA programs that fund drop-in centers, rapid re-housing and transitional programs, and employment assistance.
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 Post-Traumatic Stress, mild Traumatic Brain Injury, 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.