I don't usually write about legislation unless I can actually see it and read it but will make an exception this evening. According to a press release I received from Rep. Patrick Murphy's office (D-08), Murphy introduced legislation today to assist homeless veterans. Murphy estimates that there are over 3,300 homeless veterans in Pennsylvania and at least 550 in the greater Philadelphia area alone.
As it happens one of Mr. J's sisters, who lives in another state, has worked with homeless veterans for a number of years. I gave her a call to run the provisions of this legislation by her. In one of those cosmic convergences she had planned to call us this evening because a co-worker of hers plans to move to Bensalem and she wanted to ask us about the area for him. So, heads up Bucks County, another taxpayer is moving in soon.
In any event, the four bullet points listed on Murphy's press release are:
* Congressman Murphy's bill eliminates the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to adjust the grants and per diem payments that Homeless Veterans Service Centers receive because of other income. In other words, community-based organizations that aid homeless veterans have no reason to seek additional funding because an increase in private dollars will simply be offset by a decrease in VA funding. This eliminates the inevitable decrease.
* The bill also makes permanent a program to identify service members on active duty who are at risk of becoming homeless after they are discharged or released. The program will work to prevent these members from becoming homeless.
* Homeless Service Center Grants are expanded to also provide funds for staff.
* The Department of Veterans Affairs is instructed to take steps to make their homeless vets programs more accommodating for female veterans.
Mr. J's sister said these are all good ideas. She added a few information points. For example on identifying those at risk, she said there are people who are asked to leave the military because of drug or alcohol problems; making sure they are referred to a service agency or rehab or support group would be a good idea as they are otherwise likely to continue a downward spiral. She also said that in some places patient advocates were traveling from Dept of Defense hospitals or areas with veterans and their families to their home of origin or record or wherever they are going, to make sure they connect with all service agencies to which they are entitled.
Regarding women veterans she said that she is sometimes called out of her administrative office to do casework with homeless women who are not comfortable talking with the male caseworkers. Many of the women she talks to have been subjected to sexual trauma, often at the hands of their fellow soldiers.
Another items she brought up, and one I hope to write on at greater length in the future, is the increased incidence of brain trauma among veterans.
When I can get a bill or resolution number and link to the text and the press release, I will post it.