NCHV Announces Introduction of Permanent Legislative Fix to Protect VA Homeless Program Eligibility for “OTH” Veterans

NCHV is very pleased to announce that Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) have introduced legislation that would ensure the eligibility for VA homeless services of veterans with “Other Than Honorable” discharges.

The “Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act of 2015” (S. 1731) would clarify the original intent of Congress that the Grant and Per Diem (GPD), GPD Special Needs, and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) programs serve all veterans with anything other than a Dishonorable discharge, regardless of a veteran’s VA healthcare eligibility. Furthermore, S. 1731 removes the requirement that a veteran serve in the military for two years in order to be eligible for these three VA homeless programs.

This legislation would not extend eligibility for these programs to those who received dishonorable discharges, nor to those who were discharged following courts-martial. Neither would this legislation extend any benefits (including healthcare, pensions, or any other veteran’s benefits) to these veterans, other than access to the GPD, GPD Special Needs, and SSVF programs. The bill ensures that our communities can continue to care for veterans in their time of need as we have for over 20 years.

For background on this issue, click here.

In spite of the long history of these homeless programs serving veterans with “Other Than Honorable” discharges, a recent Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General report found an uneven record of compliance with that policy. The report found that at 15 VA Medical Centers across the country, VA officials had been excluding veterans from their homeless programs based on their discharge status. At one location this process had been erroneously occurring for more than six years. To redress this failure, S. 1731 would also ensure that there is never another instance of confused policy by requiring VA-wide training on the updated VA homeless programs eligibility.

As we reach the end of the Five-Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness, it is increasingly important that we retain the ability to serve homeless veterans with “Other Than Honorable” discharges. Those who receive them make up 15% of the homeless veteran population across the country. In some urban locales, that number can be as high as 30% of the area’s population of homeless veterans.

NCHV expresses its deepest gratitude to Senators Murray and Hirono for their work on this issue, and calls on the Senate to take up consideration of this important bill.

To view the bill, click here. To view the press release on the bill distributed by Senator Murray’s office, click here.

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