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The VA doubles down on its housing-first approach
As House Democrats rage against Republicans for failing veterans in next year’s budget, the Biden administration is announcing new actions to provide them with immediate housing and legal support.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In Wednesday morning’s top that previewed President Joe Biden’s “Bidenomics” speech in Chicago, your Supercreator Daily author reported that despite all the progress the administration has touted, the affordable housing crisis is still a burden that constrains Americans from fully participating in the economy.
This is especially true for the 40,000 veterans without shelter on any given night.
The White House this morning announced a series of new actions intended to address veteran homelessness and demonstrate how urgent it ranks on the administration’s list of policy priorities.
The announcement comes more than two weeks after House Democrats on the Appropriations Committee slammed Republicans for failing veterans by voting to write the annual government funding bills below the toplines agreed to by President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the budget deal they reached this month to raise the debt limit.
The Veterans Affairs Department announced $11.5 million in awards for its new legal services program for veterans experiencing homelessness to 79 public and nonprofit organizations nationwide. The groups will provide representation in landlord-tenant disputes, prevent eviction, and assist with court proceedings for child support, custody, or estate planning. The program will also help veterans obtain public benefits, including disability compensation, and resolve outstanding warrants, fines, or driver’s license revocation.
Allison Jaslow, the CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, called the increased access to adequate legal representation a game-changer for veterans in need.
“Today’s wise move by the VA will especially help veterans that have struggled with mental health care issues, to include those discharged less than honorably following incidents that were a result of their [post-traumatic stress disorder,” Jaslow said in a statement to Supercreator Daily. “But the resources will also importantly help veterans who just find themselves in a variety of common situations that could lead to homelessness and inequitable legal burdens.”
Secretary of Veterans of Affairs Denis McDonough said during a press call with reporters the program is designed to draw on the strength of community organizations that know veterans best.
“And it’s based on a simple fact, which is that justice system involvement for our veterans is strongly and directly correlated with homelessness. So our ability to help those veterans who are struggling with justice system involvement will directly impact our ability to get to end veteran homelessness,” McDonough said. “Legal support can be the difference between becoming homeless in the first instance of having a safe, stable house and roof over their heads. With these grants, we move ever closer to that goal.”
The VA also announced $50 million in grant funding to support veterans who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness with reintegrating back into the labor force. Through the program, veterans can learn occupational skills, participate in registered apprenticeships or on-the-job training, be placed in jobs, and receive supportive services.
White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden said the program has helped almost 17,000 veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless get jobs in fields such as advanced manufacturing, construction, logistics, information technology, and cybersecurity with a wage of nearly $17.50 per hour.
In addition to the VA legal services program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will provide more than $3 billion for a program designed to rehouse homeless individuals through interventions like rental assistance, supportive services, technology, and data sharing.
A senior administration official confirmed the HUD funding isn’t specifically marked for veterans, but many communities prioritize this population when doling out resources.
The new actions are the latest iteration of the VA’s housing-first approach that views housing as the first step to providing stability and security for an individual. Once veterans are housed, the VA works to make sure veterans get health care, disability benefits, and other resources they need to stay housed.
The number of veterans experiencing homelessness is down by over 40 percent since 2011. And last year, the VA said it prevented more than 17,700 veterans and their families from falling into homelessness and helped nearly 192,000 additional veteran family members, veterans and family members who are experiencing financial difficulties retain their homes and avoid foreclosure. The VA also permanently housed more than 40,000 veterans, exceeding its goal of 38,000. (McDonough said the VA set the same goal again this year, which is on track to meet, if not exceed, the goal again.)
But as Pride Month comes to a close, it’s worth reflecting on the more than one million gay and lesbian veterans, many of whom were unable to serve openly due to the now-repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and have experienced challenges accessing their benefits.
A senior administration official said the beauty of the Homeless Veterans Integration Program is that its grantees are charged with advancing equity and inclusion in its underserved communities, including rural, Native American, and specifically LGBTQ+.
And another senior administration official encouraged all veterans to reach out to Veterans Affairs to see how the agency can best serve them, regardless of their discharge background.
“I think in large part, these programs are designed to meet homeless veterans where they are and connect them to the services they need, particularly the legal services that may be required to help someone get a Discharge Review Board opportunity to be able to get that upgrade that may be required for their access to services,” the official added.
President Biden asked Congress in his 2024 budget proposal for $13 billion to expand rental assistance for 450,000 extremely low-income veterans families, which would move the administration closer to essentially a guarantee of rental assistance for this population.
The president has also requested $3.1 billion to specifically address homelessness plus additional investments in the wraparound services veterans need to thrive after their service.
But these requests require congressional approval, which means the House and Senate will have to eventually reconcile the funding gaps between the two chambers.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can on the administration side, implementing programs, maximizing discretion within our programs to address this challenge,” an official said. “And we also know how absolutely critical it is that Congress acts and gives us the resources we need to really make as much progress as possible.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, your guide to the politicians, power brokers, and policies shaping the American creator experience. It’s Thursday, June 29, 2023.
TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
10 a.m. President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
12:15 p.m. Vice President Kamala Harris will travel from Washington, DC and arrive in New Orleans at 2:40 p.m.
12:45 p.m. The president will travel from the White House and arrive in New York City at 2:25 p.m.
3:45 p.m. The vice president will participate in a moderated conversation on the economy at the Global Black Economic Forum at the ESSENCE Festival of Culture in New Orleans.
4 p.m. President Biden will join Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC for a live interview.
5:30 p.m. The president will participate in a campaign fundraiser. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, South Carolina.
7:30 p.m. Vice President Harris will speak at a campaign reception.
7:40 p.m. President Biden will participate in another campaign fundraiser.
9:05 p.m. The president will travel from NYC and return to the White House at 10:50 p.m.
The House and Senate are out.
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THEY DID THAT
→ EMILYs List endorsed Liz Whitmer Gereghty for election in New York’s 17th congressional district, one of four New York House seats Republicans flipped in last year’s midterms on their way to a slim five-seat majority. Gereghty, a small business owner, is the sister of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.).
→ Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) reintroduced a bill to develop standards to improve quality of care for cancer survivors and their families.
→ President Biden spoke to the press with the indentation marks of the continuous positive airway pressure machine visible on his face. The president, like the estimated 26 percent of people in the US aged 30 to 70, uses the CPAP device to treat sleep apnea, a disorder he first disclosed in 2008.
→ White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre canceled a scheduled appearance on The View after the White House learned the show employs members of the Writers Guild of America, East who are currently on strike.
→ Vice President Harris looked back on the marriage she officiated as California Attorney General for the spouses who won the lawsuit that struck down the state’s ban on marriage equality a decade ago.
→ Entertainment Weekly’s social media manager decided to tell us how they really feel.
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