Sen. Blumenthal Introduces the Veteran Housing Stability Act of 2015
On Friday, July 31, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (SVAC), announced legislation that he is leading to increase safe and affordable housing for veterans by improving and expanding upon VA’s programs to prevent and end homelessness among veterans.
The Veteran Housing Stability Act of 2015, which Blumenthal is leading with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), would modernize several existing Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) housing programs for homeless and at-risk veterans to increase access to safe, affordable, and permanent housing options. At an SVAC hearing on Ending Veteran Homelessness earlier this week, Blumenthal discussed this legislation as well as the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act of 2015 of which he is a co-sponsor.
“This measure will address the egregious, abhorrent problem of veteran homelessness with several common-sense, effective steps to increase housing for homeless and at-risk veterans,” said Blumenthal. “This statistic is staggering – 49,000 veterans are homeless in America today, one in ten of the homeless – a searing failure in the greatest, strongest nation in the world’s history. It reflects a failure to keep faith that this legislation will help correct. We cannot allow another veteran to slip through the cracks. We must give communities the flexibility and tools they need to create housing systems that can maximize existing resources collaboratively in order to identify and sustain appropriate housing placements for vulnerable veterans.”
VA’s current initiatives have led to a 33 percent decrease in the homeless veteran population since 2010. These declining numbers are a reflection of the combined efforts of VA and its Federal, State, Local, Tribal, and community partners as they continue aggressive efforts to decrease veteran homelessness and implement a system through which veterans who become homeless can be rapidly placed in appropriate housing situations that meet their needs. The legislation is supported by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Specifically, the Veteran Housing Stability Act of 2015 would:
- Require VA to collaborate with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other entities to conduct more robust landlord outreach and encourage more landlords to rent to veterans, particularly in areas with high rental costs or insufficient rental housing availability.
- Expand access to a VA program that provides critical savings to veteran housing providers, allowing groups to spend limited funding to provide high quality services instead of retiring the debt they would take on to acquire a facility for housing homeless veterans.
- Authorize VA to issue case-management only grants to transitional housing providers that convert their facilities into permanent housing facilities.
- Require VA to set national performance targets for transitional housing providers and utilize them to determine whether the grantee’s performance merits continued funding.
- Prompt VA to utilize data to maximize the utility of its assertive community outreach teams to reduce unnecessary utilization of health care and, subsequently the costs for care.
Expand access to VA homeless programs for veterans fleeing domestic violence by making VA’s definition of a homeless veteran conform with HUD’s.