Wednesday the Senate approved legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and co-sponsored by Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to expand benefits to homeless veterans. The Helping Homeless Veterans Act of 2013 closes a loophole in current law that prevents veterans who are homeless as the result of domestic violence from receiving certain benefits such as counseling and housing.
“It is unacceptable to deprive veterans of benefits—especially services that are designed to help them when they are at their most vulnerable,” said Sen. Begich. “Alaska has the highest number of veterans per capita and alarmingly high rates of domestic violence. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee I was committed to making sure this bill cleared all the legislative hurdles so that our vets have the benefits they have earned and deserve.”
Previously the law recognized individuals who have been forced from their homes by domestic violence as “homeless.” “Homeless veterans” were not recognized because it was not included in the definition of homeless in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. As a result, homeless veterans were ineligible for certain benefits provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The bill also improves services for homeless veterans by increasing the per diem payment for transitional housing assistance and authorizing per diem payments to dependents of homeless veterans.
“We can never do enough to support the men and women who have served this country,” said Sen. Begich. “This is just one more step in the effort to improve veterans services and streamline the delivery of health care to our veterans, fix the backlog of claims, and make sure our vets get the full range of benefits owed to them.”