(U.S. Senate) – Following President Joe Biden’s call to deliver stronger support to homeless veterans during his State of the Union address yesterday, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester released the following statement underscoring his continued commitment to this effort in the 118th Congress:
“The men and women who risk their lives to defend our country deserve to be treated with dignity when they return home, which is why I’ve fought to give VA the tools to support homeless veterans in Montana and across the country. Recent numbers show these efforts, backed by VA and advocates on the ground, are getting more veterans into safe, reliable, and stable housing. I appreciate President Biden drawing public attention to this issue, but our fight won’t be over until every man and woman who answered the call to service has a roof over their head.”
President Biden’s State of the Union address comes on the heels of a recent announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that it permanently housed more than 40,400 veterans in 2022—exceeding its goal of 38,000. Since 2020, veterans homelessness declined by 11 percent.
Tester has long-fought to end veterans homelessness as a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. As Chairman, the Senator delivered critical support last Congress through his Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2021—legislation to permanently cut red tape on capital grants provided by VA for organizations assisting veterans experiencing homelessness. Signed into law as part of the omnibus federal funding package, otherwise known as the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Omnibus Appropriations Package, this bill extended provisions previously secured under the Senator’s Grant Regulation Adjustment during the Coronavirus Emergency (GRACE) for Homeless Veterans Act of 2020.
Among its many provisions, Tester’s Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act:
- Increased and made permanent the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program administered by the Department of Labor, which connects homeless and at-risk veterans with long-term, meaningful jobs;
- Established a pilot program to expand access to substance use disorder programs for homeless veterans who face barriers accessing this care directly through VA; and
- Established a pilot program geared towards bridging the gap between homelessness and long-term care or home-based care for veterans suffering from chronic illnesses by allowing transitional housing facilities to apply for grant funding to hire onsite medical professionals.
Thanks to the provisions in the Senator’s GRACE for Homeless Veterans Act of 2020, the Poverello Center in Missoula, Montana received funding from VA and local grants available from the American Rescue Plan Act. This critical funding will allow the organization to move its Housing Montana Heroes program to a new, renovated space to provide safer, more individualized temporary housing to Montana veterans.
Tester also secured $2.7 billion in the federal funding package to aid the nation’s efforts in veteran homelessness prevention. He is committed to building on these efforts in the 118th Congress as Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman to make permanent pandemic flexibilities and establish creative ways to expand access to and availability of affordable housing for veterans nationwide.