Bipartisan Bill Would Help Curb Veteran Homelessness

Washington Report

Legislation that would expand eligibility for a veteran housing program is one step closer to law after clearing the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The Veteran HOUSE Act of 2020 (H.R. 2398) passed by a 362-31 vote. A similar bill, S. 2061, has been introduced in the Senate.

HOUSE stands for Housing Opportunities and Unemployment Support Extension. If the bill becomes law, it would expand eligibility for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., in the House. In the Senate, it is being championed by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.; and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Those senators said studies show veterans with other-than-honorable discharges are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than other veterans. Under current law, those veterans are unable to access VA case management services and are therefore denied housing vouchers.

“Other-than-honorable veterans face a much greater risk of mental health disorders, homelessness and suicide,” said Tester, who is ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “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.”

Young said he was proud the legislation would help ensure more chronically homeless veterans receive the support they deserve.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. It has the support of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Alliance to End Homelessness and several veterans organizations.