Tester’s Comprehensive Bill to Permanently Expand Pandemic Support to Homeless Veterans Clears Committee Hurdle

Committee passed 13 bills, including Chairman’s Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act to cut red tape on resources to support unhoused veterans post-pandemic

(U.S. Senate) – The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today cleared 13 bills today, including Chairman Jon Tester’s comprehensive legislation to permanently expand pandemic-relief resources essential to providing critical care and support for unhoused veterans and their families through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Committee passage of my Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act sends an important message to all veterans that Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working to deliver commonsense solutions to tackle the veterans homelessness crisis,” said Tester. “This bill will put more veterans on a steady path to permanent housing with the support of critical safety nets like increased support for housing providers and expanded job opportunities. The bottom line is we can’t continue relying on half-measures to support those who’ve served, which is why I’ll continue to push this bill every step of the way until veterans and their families have access to these essential resources.”

The Chairman’s Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2021 would permanently cut red tape on grants provided by VA for organizations assisting veterans experiencing homelessness—extending provisions under Tester’s Grant Regulation Adjustment during the Coronavirus Emergency for Homeless Veterans (GRACE) Act of 2020. This bill would also ensure that organizations have the necessary funding to continue supporting veterans and avoid derailing their pre-pandemic progress toward effectively ending veteran homelessness. And it would expand veterans’ access to critical resources to help them get quickly back on their feet, including increased access to transportation, case management services, job training benefits, and improved transitional housing for aging veterans.

Among its many provisions, the Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2021 will:

  • Permanently remove barriers on funding for construction of transitional housing for veterans experiencing homelessness;
  • Provide organizations nationwide with the funding and flexibility to provide adequate services to unhoused veterans;
  • Allow VA to supply ending-homelessness organizations with the education and support to best serve our nation’s veterans;
  • Direct VA to evaluate increased flexibilities and funding to combat the affordable housing shortage crisis;
  • Provide all veterans with access to case management services to connect them with the benefits and resources they earned;
  • Establish a five-year pilot grant program for community substance use disorder recovery programs for unhoused veterans with preference given to programs assisting veterans who face barriers in accessing those services from VA;
  • Increase and make permanent funding connecting veterans with long-term, meaningful jobs;
  • Expand public transportation for veterans to access mental health care, medical treatment, job services, and other essential needs;
  • Ensure aging veterans are not left on the street while they await placement in long-term care; and
  • Request a true assessment by GAO of the challenges veterans and their advocates face in securing them permanent housing.

The Senator’s bill received strong backing from various Veterans Service Organizations nationwide and in Montana.

“We commend the Committee for advancing S. 2172, the Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2021,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV). “This bill will allow organizations sheltering homeless veterans to continue to do so, safely and in accordance with CDC guidelines. It will also make key enhancements to Federal Programs by enhancing access to health care navigators, encouraging VA to offer more training to grantees, and permitting service providers the flexibility to maintain critical program adaptations. We urge Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell to pass this legislation quickly, and with the urgency that veterans deserve.”

“I want to thank the committee for its continued work to address our nation's veteran homelessness crisis. The legislation approved today will ensure that housing providers have the resources we need to care for the most persistent and complex cases we come across,” said Steve Peck, President and CEO of U.S.VETS, the nation’s largest housing provider for homeless veterans.

 

“Too many of our veterans experience homelessness due to conditions stemming from military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Homeless veterans have a higher prevalence of mental health issues, and are at greater risk for suicide,” said Joy Ilem, National Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans (DAV). “DAV is pleased to support the Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act, and we thank Chairman Tester for introducing this comprehensive bill to strengthen the VA’s network of programming for homeless veterans.”

“With rising mortgage and leasing rates increasing pressure on already strained services for veterans facing homelessness, the time is now to safeguard the resources that have proven the most effective for veterans at risk,” said Daniel J. Seehafer, Chairman of the American Legion. “The Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act helps veterans get quickly back on their feet by removing barriers on funding for temporary housing, improve case management services, and making permanent the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program. The American Legion is proud to support this landmark legislation and applauds Senator Tester’s leadership on behalf of our nation’s heroes.”  

“The VFW supports the Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2021 to help reduce veteran homelessness,” said Pat Murray, National Legislative Director of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). “Eliminating roadblocks will help allow veterans to fully utilize the programs VA offers in order to maintain stable housing. The VFW thanks Senator Tester for making this issue a priority and we look forward to the eventual passage of this bill.”

“We are excited about the Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act which addresses many important issues involving Veterans experiencing homelessness,” said Jill Bonny, the Poverello Center’s Executive Director. “This bill will not only provide the necessary funding needed to make post-pandemic changes and expansions to GPD programs, but will also increase access to substance use recovery programs, address the affordable housing shortage, and provide better care for our aging Veterans without homes.”

“The VA’s community partners need certainty that the Department will provide the resources necessary to handle even the most challenging cases in the highest cost markets,” said Chuck Helget, Executive Director of the California Association of Veteran Service Agencies. “The legislation approved by the committee today will do just that.”

In addition to Tester’s bill, the Committee unanimously passed 12 veterans’ bills aimed at improving veterans’ health care and benefits.

Text of the Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2021 can be found HERE.

A one-pager on the bill can be found HERE.