Senator Murray Introduces Emergency Bill to Reverse New VA Policy Change that Has Shut the Doors of Homeless Shelters to Veterans

Veterans have been turned away in the wake of sudden VA policy change made in February that limits eligibility for indispensable grant program that supports homeless shelters and providers

After Murray introduces legislation, VA NOW says it will temporarily rescind the policy change but final legal opinion could still shutter access for homeless veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 1, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on Thursday introduced emergency legislation that would reverse a sudden and largely unexplained Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy change that has restricted homeless veterans’ access to housing and services. Senator Murray’s bill, The Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act (S. 2179), reverses a new VA policy by allowing community organizations who receive funding through the VA’s Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program to once again count veterans who don’t meet certain length of service or discharge requirements when calculating the federal GPD allotment that often allows these facilities to operate.

Just two weeks ago, a VA memo went out to these programs forbidding them from counting new homeless veterans who didn’t serve for two years or were given certain “other than honorable” discharges from service. That instruction meant that community organizations in many instances had to begin denying homeless veterans housing, and reversed the standard that VA and these providers have used for two decades. No contingency plan was given to provide for the veterans who would be turned away.

“This is federal bureaucracy at its most heartless,” said Senator Murray. “For the VA to suddenly tell homeless providers that they are limiting a successful, 20 year-old program in a way that will put more veterans on the streets, defies all common sense, particularly when this Administration has set the bold and commendable goal of ending veterans homelessness by 2015. If this is a question of cost the VA needs to come forward and say that and I will fight just as hard for funding as I will to restore eligibility.”

The change also affects the critical Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which allows VA to award grants to organizations that assist very low income families living in or transitioning to permanent housing by providing them with a range of supportive services.

UPDATE: Monday morning VA announced that they would temporarily place a moratorium on the policy change after Senator Murray introduced legislation to reverse it. However, the VA has indicated that change is only temporary until a final legal opinion, which is expected to reaffirm this ban, is issued.

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