What factors help to make our veterans vulnerable? The shortage of affordable housing, lack of jobs, and access to health care, in addition to homelessness, put our vets at risk. Displaced and at-risk veterans often struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse, compounded by the absence of family and social support networks. Homelessness is directly linked to ones’ ability to secure employment and health care, making it harder for homeless Americans, including veterans, to escape a cycle of despair. Unfortunately, existing federal homeless programs do not focus on veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is working to reach homeless veterans, currently servicing an estimated 92,000 of those-in-need, but that still leaves more than 100,000 veterans in need of help.
I recently cosponsored S. 1160, the Homes for Heroes Act of 2009. S. 1160 would direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand homeless veterans’ access to existing housing assistance programs. I have also cosponsored S. 1547, the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009, which would direct the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to establish a program within the Veterans Benefits Administration to combat homelessness among veterans.
Veterans caring for children make up a small but growing percentage of homeless veterans. Therefore, I have also cosponsored S. 1237, the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act of 2009. S. 1237 would expand the existing grant program for veterans with special needs to include homeless veterans who care for minor children. It would also direct the Secretary of Labor to make grants to programs and facilities that provide services to homeless veterans with children that help reintegrate these veterans into the labor force.
America’s veterans have given their best service to our country on the battlefield; we owe them our country’s best efforts to help them deal with a return to civilian life.