WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) on Tuesday introduced a bipartisan bill to curb veteran homelessness after passing the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday 362-31.
Studies show that veterans with Other-Than-Honorable (OTH) discharges are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than other veterans; even though only about five percent of separating service members receive an OTH discharge, they make up a quarter of the total homeless veteran population. Under current law, veterans with OTH discharges are unable to access VA case management services and are therefore denied housing vouchers under the Department of Housing and Urban Development - VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. The senators’ Veteran Housing Opportunities and Unemployment Support Extension (HOUSE) Act would allow veterans with OTH discharges to participate in this important program, connecting chronically homeless veterans with the resources they need to find employment and housing.
“The servicemen and women who put their lives on the line for our safety should not have to worry about becoming homeless,” said Murphy. “Far too many veterans in this country are chronically homeless or unable to access the resources they need. That’s shameful. I want to applaud the House of Representatives for passing this important piece of legislation, and I’ll continue to work with Senators Tester and Young to make sure this bill passes the Senate and becomes law.”
"Other-Than-Honorable veterans face a much greater risk of mental health disorders, homelessness, and suicide,” said Tester. “Our bill is a result of a bipartisan effort to support these veterans, helping them get back on their feet by securing good paying jobs and a place to call home. This is a step in the right direction for ending veteran homelessness in Montana and across the country, and I will continue to work to push it over the finish line in Congress."
“As a Marine, I’m especially proud that this legislation will help ensure that many more chronically homeless veterans receive the housing support they deserve,” said Young. “I will continue to work to solve the housing affordability crisis for all Hoosiers.”
The Veteran HOUSE Act is supported by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Alliance to End Homelessness, The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, and the National Housing Law Project.
Murphy is the author of the Honor Our Commitment Act, legislation passed in March 2018 that requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide mental health and behavioral health services to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges. Earlier this year following reports that the VA is continuing to deny veterans with OTH discharges the services required under the Honor Our Commitment Act, Murphy led a group of senators, including Tester, in sending a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie demanding the VA comply with the law.
In May, Murphy and Tester spearheaded a letter to Secretary Robert Wilkie, urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to properly train VA personnel and conduct outreach to veterans under the Honor Our Commitment Act, a bipartisan bill which provides mental and behavioral healthcare to certain veterans with OTH discharges. He also pushed for an expansion of the HUD-VASH program during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in November, in an effort to address the nation’s growing affordable housing crisis.