(U.S. Senate) – To ensure continuous support for the nation’s veterans, caregivers, and their families, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are introducing bipartisan legislation to extend essential Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs and authorities currently set to expire May 11th.
The Senators’ Critical Health Access Resource and Grant Extensions (CHARGE) Act of 2023 would protect measures currently being implemented by VA to curb veteran homelessness, support caregivers, and assist State Veterans Homes dealing with staffing shortages.
“These resources have been a critical lifeline for so many Montana veterans, and we simply can’t let them fall to the wayside,” said Chairman Tester. “That’s why I’m joining Senator Murkowski to protect these services on behalf of veterans and their families relying on steady access to quality care and housing. This bill honors the promises made to our men and women who served, and I’ll keep pushing to get it across the finish line as quickly as possible.”
“I’m proud to be working on this effort to improve services to help homeless and aging veterans. I stand united with my colleagues in ensuring that those who served to protect us have the support they deserve and have earned. The lessons of the pandemic are not forgotten—we cannot forget about our veterans by allowing this authority expire,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bipartisan effort will make a positive impact for Alaskans and the great organizations who dedicate their time and effort to serving veterans.”
Among its many priorities, the CHARGE Act specifically:
- Increases the maximum reimbursement amount for VA grant recipient organizations providing temporary and transitional housing for homeless veterans. This is especially essential for organizations in rural areas with limited access to alternative funding sources;
- Allows VA to continue providing gap services and support to homeless veterans when other supportive programs are not available—including shelter, transportation, landlord incentives for permanent housing, and more;
- Extends authority to allow veterans and caregivers in the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to elect for virtual home visits through September 30, 2023 or until VA finalizes their new regulations for the program;
- Extends the State Veterans Homes’ occupancy rate requirement waiver until September 30, 2024 so that state homes are not financially penalized for staffing shortages; and
- Makes permanent an authority that allows VA to share personal protective equipment, vaccines, medical supplies, and other resources with State Veterans Homes.
The Senators’ efforts received strong backing from Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and stakeholders nationwide.
“Combating veteran homelessness is more than just simply providing a roof over a person’s head, and oftentimes is accompanied by other financial struggles,” said the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Legislative Director Pat Murray. “A critical component of the CHARGE Act is allowing for more flexibility in assisting veterans struggling to acquire food, clothing, hygiene materials, and other items needed for daily life. The VFW thanks Senators Tester and Murkowski for their commitment to eliminating veteran homelessness.”
“The VA implemented a host of successful programs and authorities to address veterans’ homelessness and care needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; including provisions related to access to case management, caregivers, State Veterans Homes, and temporary housing,” said The American Legion’s National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola. “With the federal Public Health Emergency expiring on May 11th, we must efficiently phase successful programs out of emergency authorities. The American Legion is proud to support the CHARGE Act of 2023, which will ensure our homeless veterans continue to receive the resources and services they deserve, and applauds Senators Tester and Murkowski’s leadership on behalf of our nation’s heroes.”
“With regulations for the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers currently going through the process of being updated, it’s imperative that veterans and their caregivers can continue receiving services like virtual home visits until such updates are finalized,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “The CHARGE Act of 2023 would ensure these, and other programs aimed at homelessness and State Veterans Homes are extended so that veterans and their caregivers can receive the services and benefits they have earned. DAV applauds Senators Tester and Murkowski for their leadership in introducing this important legislation.”
“The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) applauds the introduction of Chairman Tester’s Critical Health Access Resource and Grant Extensions (CHARGE) Act of 2023 (S.1436),” said the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ (NCHV) Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Monet. “This legislation would extend successful, essential veterans’ programs and authorities set to expire at the end of the Public Health Emergency on May 11th. The bill includes provisions from the Healthy Foundations for Homeless Veterans Act (H.R.645), and the Return Home to Housing Act (H.R. 491) to make tools necessary for ending veteran homelessness permanent. These critical authorities allow VA to provide more equitable funding for veteran transitional housing and wrap around services like transportation, communication and items for survival. NCHV highlights that Congress needs to pass this urgently needed legislation before May 11th when veterans are directly impacted.”
“The Alliance appreciates the strong leadership of Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Tester and Senator Murkowski for their introduction of the CHARGE Act,” said National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Chief Executive Officer Ann Oliva. “This legislation would extend the authority provided to the Department of Veterans Affairs to deliver vital services to veterans experiencing homelessness during the pandemic– which expires on May 11th – permanent, and would ensure the integrity of the Grant and Per Diem program for homeless veterans. Now we need the rest of the Senate to follow Chairman Tester and Senator Murkowski’s lead and pass the CHARGE Act as soon as possible in order to minimize the disruption of vital homelessness services.”
“The COVID-19 public health emergency challenged the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue serving veterans through tremendous adversity. Many of those challenges revealed opportunities to serve better than before,” said Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) Vice President for Government and Community Relations Jose Ramos. “The Critical Health Access Resource and Grant Extensions (CHARGE) Act of 2023 will extend several temporary measures that will allow that higher level of service to continue, particularly for homeless veterans and those enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. We appreciate Chairman Tester and Senator Murkowski’s bipartisan leadership on these issues and look forward to seeing the CHARGE Act passed into law.”
“Although the federal public health emergency will end this month, the negative financial impacts of the COVID pandemic continue to threaten the capacity of State Veterans Homes to provide long term care to aging and disabled veterans,” said the National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASVH) President Whitney Bell. “Senator Tester’s CHARGE Act would authorize VA to continue providing financial and material support to State Veterans Homes to help mitigate staffing shortages and the increased cost of providing care to America’s heroes. NASVH strongly supports the CHARGE Act, and we applaud Senators Tester and Murkowski for their unwavering support of the men and women who served.”