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Senate Passes Hirono Bill to Save Veteran Housing Programs

The U.S. Senate today approved the extension of a package of veteran health and benefit programs, which includes the Keeping Our Commitment to Ending Veteran Homelessness Act authored by Senators Mazie K. Hirono and John Boozman (R-AR) to renew a number of important veteran housing programs. Without action, these programs, which served over 600 Hawaii veterans in 2015, would have expired on September 30. The package also includes Sen. Hirono’s bill, S. 3246, which renews authority for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office in Manila, Philippines, keeping it open for business.

“I thank my colleagues for joining me in sending a strong message that we are committed to ending veteran homelessness,” said Senator Hirono. “Providers across the country, including U.S. VETS- Barber’s Point and Catholic Charities Hawaii, will be able to continue their critical work helping veterans and their families to get off the streets and into stable homes.”

“Approving this legislation is essential to fulfilling our commitment to the men and women who served our nation in uniform,” said Senator Boozman. “Our veterans earned these benefits. That’s why it’s necessary to take action to prevent important programs like those that aim to prevent veteran homelessness, from expiring at the end of the month. We need to continue the momentum we’ve seen in Arkansas that enables veterans to get the help they need to rebuild their lives. I’m pleased to support this important legislation and will continue to advance policies that protect our veterans.”

The Hirono-Boozman provisions are now headed to the President for his signature. These provisions renewed seven VA and Department of Labor programs that provide outreach and services to homeless veterans and their families:

Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV): Through HCHV, VA medical center staff conduct outreach to homeless veterans, provide care and treatment for medical, psychiatric, and substance use disorders, and refer veterans for supportive services. In the last three fiscal year cycles, increased support through this program allowed the VA Pacific Island Healthcare System to double its Homeless Program staff in Hawaii.

Grants and Per Diem (GPD) for Homeless Veterans with Special Needs: GPD for homeless veterans with special needs, targets GPD funds to specific groups of veterans, including women, elderly veterans, terminally or mentally ill veterans, and veterans with children.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF): SSVF funds grants for supportive services to assist very low-income veterans and their families who are either residing in permanent housing or transitioning from homelessness. Eligible services include assistance with rent, utility or moving costs, outreach, case management, and help with obtaining VA and other mainstream benefits.

Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans: A committee created by law made up of veteran service organizations and service providers to provide advice to the VA secretary on benefits and services the Department gives to homeless veterans.

Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Veterans: This program authorizes the VA to sell, lease, lease with the option to buy, or donate properties to nonprofit organizations and state government agencies that will use the property as homeless shelters for veterans and their families.

Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP): HVRP grantees provide services to veterans including outreach, assistance in interview preparation, job search, job training, and follow-up assistance after placement.

Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program: Grantee organizations through the Incarcerated Veterans Transition program provide job training and placement services to veterans who are leaving prison.

Another Hirono provision included in the package would keep the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office in Manila, Philippines open for business. Sen. Hirono introduced the Keeping Our Commitment to Overseas Veterans Act (S. 3246) to extend the authority to operate the VA Regional Office in Manila, Philippines. The Manila VA Office serves around 15,000 VA beneficiaries residing in the Philippines and around 30,000 Social Security beneficiaries across the Asia-Pacific.