WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, applauded the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its affiliated community-based programs for their role in a reported drop in the number of homeless veterans. VA statistics released yesterday indicate a 21 percent decline in the number of homeless veterans on any given night, compared to a previous VA estimate in 2006.
"The reported drop in the number of homeless veterans is welcome news, and I commend VA and the many community programs that have worked to make this happen," said Senator Akaka. Last year, Akaka pushed successfully for full funding of $130 million for VA's Homeless Grant and Per Diem program. This is a VA initiative which funds community-based organizations that serve homeless veterans by providing transitional housing and helping these veterans out of the streets and back into society.
"While we all should be proud of the successes to date, now is the time for increased action rather than celebration. A 21 percent decline still means that on any given night, over 150,000 veterans are homeless. We must redouble our efforts to further reduce and ultimately prevent homelessness among veterans. By strengthening already-successful programs, we can sustain this most welcome sign of progress," stated Akaka.
Chairman Akaka specifically highlighted legislative efforts underway to improve services to homeless veterans:
Senator Akaka and the Majority Members of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs called for a $23 million increase for the VA Grant and Per Diem program to keep it fully funded at the level previously authorized by Congress. This request was made in their fiscal year 2009 budget views and estimates letter to the Senate Budget Committee.
"I hope that S. 1233, the Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury and Health Programs Improvement Act of 2007, will be brought to a vote soon. This bill includes provisions to improve support for homeless veterans, and to help prevent homelessness among at-risk veterans and their families," said Akaka. S. 1233 is currently pending consideration by the full Senate.
Chairman Akaka added, "To appropriately address homelessness, we must address root causes such as substance abuse and mental health problems. S. 2162, the Mental Health Improvements Act of 2007, would ensure that every veteran has access to substance abuse treatment, and improve mental health care for veterans and their families." S. 2162 was ordered reported to the full Senate by the Committee last November.
Please click here to view Chairman Akaka and the Majority Members' budget views and estimates letter: LINK
March 7, 2008