Statements On Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Date: April 25, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I rise to introduce the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2013. I would like to thank Ranking Member Burr for joining me to introduce this bill. At a time when too many veterans are sleeping in the streets, in cars, and on couches, the Department of Veterans Affairs has taken on an aggressive initiative to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

This high level commitment has led to a 17 percent decrease in the homeless veteran population between 2009 and 2012. These declining numbers are a reflection of the combined efforts of VA and its Federal, State, Local, Tribal, and community partners as they work to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015. However on one night in January 2012, an estimated 62,000 veterans were still without a place to call home. We must continue to work toward removing any remaining barriers to housing for veterans.

The legislation we are introducing today would reaffirm this commitment by improving upon VA's programs to prevent and end homelessness among veterans. VA's transitional housing programs for homeless veterans must modernize to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the homeless veterans they are serving. With increasing numbers of women joining the military and eventually becoming veterans, VA is facing a growing homeless women veteran population. Many of these women are single mothers or have experienced military sexual trauma, making their housing needs even more complex.

The Government Accountability Office and VA's Office of the Inspector General both found that homeless women veterans were not able to safely access services through VA's transitional housing programs. The Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2013 would remove these barriers by requiring grantees to ensure that facilities can safely serve the needs of the populations that will be living there. It also would allow VA to reimburse grantees for housing the children of homeless veterans, keeping families together and encouraging parents to come forth and be housed without having to worry about splitting their families up.

As VA focuses on resolving homelessness, instead of just managing it, housing stability is increasingly a focus. This bill also modifies the transitional housing program to allow VA to incentivize grantees to avoid the challenges that veterans completing time-limited transitional housing programs can face as they search for permanent housing. More specifically, this bill allows VA to focus on housing stability by allowing certain transitional housing grantees to turn a portion of their transitional housing units into permanent housing units as veterans are stabilized and linked to support services.

Access to stable and safe housing is a priority, but it is also critical to find ways to prevent homelessness among veterans who are at-risk of becoming homeless. This bill would also increase access to legal services and dental care for our veterans, two things that homeless veterans themselves have identified as unmet needs. Access to these services would greatly increase their chances of finding gainful employment, avoid foreclosure or eviction, obtain identification, and deal with legal issues that have resulted from the criminalization of homelessness, among other things.

Veterans have a number of services and resources available to meet their needs. At its very simplest, homelessness among veterans is preventable when all of these programs work together to lift a veteran up. Conversely, homelessness occurs when a veteran slips through the cracks. We cannot sit by idly and allow another veteran to slip through the cracks. We must reach out and let them know when, where and how to get the help that they need and that they have earned.

This is not a full summary of all the provisions within this legislation. However, I hope that I have provided an appropriate overview of the major benefits this legislation would provide.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.