Dr. Ruiz Introduces Legislation to Expand Services for Homeless Veterans

Tiani Jadulang

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) announced the introduction of the bipartisan Health Care for Homeless Veterans Act to address rising homelessness among veterans and connect vulnerable veterans with the care they need. Dr. Ruiz’s legislation would expand access to Veterans Affairs’ (VA) homeless outreach services for all veterans, including those who received other than honorable discharges. The bill would also reauthorize current benefits for homeless veterans and newly installed outreach services for five years.

“In our region and across the country, we have seen an increase in veterans who, after serving our nation, return to find themselves without a home,” said Dr. Ruiz. “My bill, the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Act, would help address this crisis and allow our most vulnerable veterans to access vital VA health care services. By connecting veterans with these resources, we are one step closer to addressing the underlying challenges that lead to veteran homelessness and empowering our servicemembers in their transition back to civilian life.”

Tomorrow, the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Act will receive a hearing in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

“Helping homeless veterans get back on their feet begins with addressing their health concerns both physical and mental,” said Bill Young of the Veteran’s Easy Access Program.

“The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) applauds Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. for introducing the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Act,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “The Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program is critical in maintaining the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability to reach our nation’s homeless veterans and would be extended through 2027. The legislation would also extend eligibility to veterans with ‘Other Than Honorable’ (OTH) discharge statuses, allowing for more seamless integration with the programs it interacts with that have already incorporated OTH veterans. The HCHV program is the front door to homeless services in many communities and bringing eligibility in line with other Homeless Veteran programs is the right thing to do. NCHV looks forward to working with Representative Ruiz, M.D. to make this bill law as we make greater strides toward a world where no veteran is left homeless.”

“The Health Care for Homeless Veterans Act will extend the vital Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program until 2027 and expand eligibility for the program’s services to veterans who received discharges that were other than honorable,” said the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “The Alliance appreciates Representative Ruiz’s leadership on this legislation, which will extend and expand HCHV outreach efforts to reduce homelessness among Veterans by engaging them in supportive and rehabilitative services. The Department of Veterans Affairs homelessness programs, including HCHV, have reduced homelessness among veterans by 50% over the last ten years, and they have earned strong bipartisan support.”

BACKGROUND 

 

Dr. Ruiz’s bill seeks to address homelessness among veterans across the nation, including in California where veteran homelessness is especially pervasive. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that roughly 37,000 veterans throughout the country are without shelter. According to CalVets, California is the state with the most unsheltered veterans, with approximately 19,000 homeless veterans.

Dr. Ruiz’s district, which includes Riverside County, has also seen a consistent uptick in unsheltered veterans, experiencing a five percent increase from 2019 to 2020.

A recent study from Yale University and the VA Connecticut Health Care System found that veterans are more likely to experience homelessness than others due to elevated risk of PTSD, social isolation, unemployment, and substance abuse.

Under Dr. Ruiz’s legislation, all veterans would be able to access key VA outreach programs that are aimed at addressing homelessness. Currently, veterans with other than honorable discharges are excluded from outreach efforts.

The Health Care for Homeless Veterans Act would also reauthorize funding for the following programs:

  • Outreach efforts to veterans living on the street or facing chronic homelessness to connect them with shelter, medical care, and other services through contracted residential beds in their communities.
  • Payments to organizations that temporarily house veterans.
  • Grants that offer help to veterans on the cusp of homelessness, by assisting with their rent, electricity, or deposits.
  • Make available case management, support service benefits, and help with Section 8 housing.

The bill is endorsed by The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

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