November 07, 2013

HIRONO AMENDMENT TO ASSIST NATIVE HAWAIIAN VETERANS PASSES SENATE

Measure Improves The Ability Of Native Hawaiian-Serving Organizations To Assist Homeless Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate yesterday unanimously passed a measure authored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono to improve the ability of Native Hawaiian-serving organizations to assist homeless veterans. Hirono attached this amendment to the Helping Homeless Veterans Act during a hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in July.

“It is heartbreaking that so many veterans in Hawaii and across the nation struggle to put a roof over their heads,” Hirono said. “While much work remains to be done to eliminate veteran homelessness, this measure passed by the Senate is a positive step for Native Hawaiian, American Indian and Alaska Native veterans, helping them access critical legal services. All of our veterans deserve our continued support.”

The Helping Homeless Veterans Act improves assistance to homeless veterans and their dependents by expanding the definition of “homeless veteran” to include those fleeing domestic violence, increasing access to dental care and allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase the number of veterans from transitional housing programs to permanent housing. Hirono’s amendment includes organizations that serve Native Hawaiians and other Native populations among the entities the VA can consider in distributing partnerships to provide legal services to homeless veterans. These services could include eviction defense, representation in landlord-tenant cases, assistance in obtaining public benefits related to income support, defense in matters symptomatic of homelessness and services related to family law. The bill is still pending approval by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 110,000 veterans live in Hawaii. In 2012, the VA estimated 5.5% of Hawaii veterans were unemployed – a number that works out to more than 6,000 veterans. In 2009, the VA estimated that Hawaii is home to almost 500 homeless veterans.