VVA Testimony VVA Testimony
VVA Testimony


            

Statement for the Record
of
 

VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA

  

 

Submitted By

 Sandra A. Miller
Chair
Vietnam Veterans of America
Homeless Veterans Task Force

Before the

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee

Regarding

Meeting the Housing Needs of Veterans

August 2, 2006

 



Mr. Chairman and members of the Senate Banking Committee, my name is Sandra A. Miller. I served as a Senior Enlisted Woman in the U.S. Navy from 1975 until 1981 and am currently Chair of Vietnam Veterans of America’s Task Force on Homeless Veterans. I work daily with homeless veterans as Program Coordinator of a 95 bed transitional residence, one of the many programs provided by The Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service & Education Center to an exclusive veteran population for more than 25 years.  

After a section-by-section review, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) strongly supports the Homes for Heroes Act. 

The requirement for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to comply with the provision of P.L. 107-95 The Homeless Veterans Assistance Act of 2001, by requesting funding for the HUD-VASH voucher program would be instrumental in providing permanent housing with supportive services to these veterans.  

 In 1992, VA joined with HUD to launch the HUD-VASH program. HUD funded almost 600 vouchers each (a total of 1,753) for this program. Through the end of FY’02, the program had served 4,300 veterans. This successful program was given additional HUD-VASH vouchers with the passage of P.L.107-95, section 12. However, HUD, a very large player in the effort to end homelessness, has not requested appropriations for additional HUD-VASH vouchers. VVA believes this program should be extended until 2010 and these vouchers should be included as budget language in HUD’s FY’07, FY’08, FY’09 and FY’10 budgets. HUD acknowledges in a letter of December 5, 2005 to our National President that these funds have not been appropriated and that housing needs of homeless Americans remains one of the top priorities of the department.  If this is so, then we are force to wonder:  Why are they leaving about 2,000 homeless veterans without the most vital resources they need --- a safe and secure place to live -- by not asking Congress to appropriate these vouchers.    

VVA agrees that “veterans” need to be included as a special-needs population that should be considered in the development of public housing plans.  We further agree that veterans’ benefits compensation payments must be excluded in any calculation  for determining the amount of rent to be paid for housing assistance under a federally assisted housing program. 

Requiring HUD to submit an annual report to Congress on housing assistance to veterans would, in fact, hold HUD accountable for what is and is not being done.   

Expanding the supply of permanent housing for low-income veterans and their families, while providing supportive services, is a key element in the elimination of homelessness among veterans.   

The federal government makes a sizeable investment in homeownership opportunities for veterans.  There is no parallel national rental housing assistance program targeted to low-income veterans. Veterans are not well served through existing housing assistance programs because of their program designs. Low-income veterans in and of themselves are not a priority population for subsidized housing assistance. And HUD devotes minimal attention to the housing needs of low--income veterans. This is  exemplified by the long-standing vacancy in the position of special assistant for veterans programs within the Office of Community Planning and Development. It is imperative that Congress elevate national attention to the housing assistance needs of our nation's low-income veterans.  

 “SUPPORTIVE SERVICES ONLY” PROGRAMS

VVA realizes that, to a certain extent, the budget drives the ability of the VA to fund HGPD programs. Consider these few items: the VA’s limited funding ability; the decreasing desire of HUD to fund Supportive Services programs; the disincentives placed by HUD on cities to renew McKinney-Vento supportive services program; the impact that lost supportive service programs will have on the local social service system. Drop-in centers are one type of programs that utilize homeless grants for what is known as “Supportive Services Only” (SSO) funding. HUD funds these SSO programs via the local agency’s inclusion on their local city’s priority list for its annual HUD McKinney-Vento submission. When originally funded, the agency was required to commit to a 20 year operational program.  It is unclear to VVA how many SSO programs are affected by this recent trend in the denial of renewals. However, as an example, this year Philadelphia had determined not to renew HUD funding for a minimum of 12  “supportive services only” programs previously funded through its continuum of care consolidated plan. SSO programs targeting homeless veterans are included in this evolving funding atmosphere. Our question is:  To what extent are the cities responsible for the continued renewals of programs that were previously vital to the local continuum?

We ask this in light of the 20 year financial burden of commitment required by small non-profit agencies when they are originally awarded their grants and led to believe they are a crucial component and partner to the comprehensive approach to the elimination of homelessness. To suggest the non-profits find alternate funding in order to continue and satisfy the 20 year commitment seems unrealistic in light of the very limited grant funding available for such SSO programs. In some instances this could ultimately lead to the death of some non-profit agencies…the life line of not only the agencies homeless clients, but also to some of the city social service agencies that depend on the agency to assist with clients in an already over-burdened local service system.

At a time when the big push is on permanent housing for the homeless, with wraparound supportive services, is it logical to eliminate these programs on the community level? In light of this situation, and as a logical fit, VVA believes it is time for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enter this arena.  We urge this committee to encourage HHS to work with VA in establishing a unique partnership, creating a joint program in an effort to provide enhanced opportunities to homeless veterans through a collaborative agency process. VVA urges a continuing dialogue between these two agencies in an effort to reach a viable option to the threatening situation that is facing the non-profits gravely concerned about their own potential demise. What a terrible loss this would be to the structure of community involvement that has been so encouraged.

THE INTERAGENCY COUNCIL ON HOMELESS 

Community providers across the country had great hopes for the Presidential Interagency Council on Homeless (ICH), believing it would translate to local, on the ground, resources down where the rubber hits the road, in  local community agencies and programs. They found this not to be the case and this they have found very disappointing. They believed it would produce more cooperative federal agency action, not just talk. But even that seems to be falling off. We strongly urge this committee to inquire as to why the Senior Working Group of the ICH has not met in the recent past -- actually in a very long time -- and why this group does not meet on a regular basis. Homeless providers were led to believe this was an important initiative. 

Mr. Chairman,  it remains a national scandal that so many men – and, increasingly, women – who have served our nation now do not have a roof over their head, a place to call home.  Although there are many reasons that have caused them to become homeless, they deserve our best efforts to help them salvage their lives. We must work together in a bipartisan manner to improve long-term services for our homeless veterans with better planning in areas of special need, transitional/permanent housing, and childcare programs, if we are to succeed in meeting the President’s stated goal of ending chronic homelessness within 10 years.  

VVA thanks the Chairman and members of this Committee for the attention you give to the needs of all our veterans and for allowing us to enter this statement for the record.


VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
Funding Statement
August 2, 2006 

The national organization Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is a non-profit veteran’s membership organization registered as a 501(c) (19) with the Internal Revenue Service. VVA is also appropriately registered with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.

VVA is not currently in receipt of any federal grant or contract, other than the routine allocation of office space and associated resources in VA Regional Offices for outreach and direct services through its Veterans Benefits Program (Service Representatives). This is also true of the previous two fiscal years. 

For Further Information, Contact:
Executive Director for  Policy and Government Relations
Vietnam Veterans of America
(301) 585-4000 ext. 127



SANDRA A. MILLER
 

Sandra A. Miller currently serves as Chair of Vietnam Veterans of America Task Force on Homeless Veterans and is a member of the Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Advisory Committee. She served as a Senior Enlisted Woman in the U.S. Navy from 1975 until 1981. 

Ms. Miller currently works as the Program Coordinator at LZ II Transitional Residence, a 95-bed transitional facility for homeless male veterans in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. LZ II Transitional Residence is a program of The Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service & Education Center, operating under a shared lease agreement with the Coatesville VA Medical Center. She is responsible for the overall day-to-day operations, seeing to the needs of homeless veterans in transition and overseeing all staff and program components. She has been a volunteer at Philadelphia Stand Down since 1995.  

During Ms. Miller’s military service, she received the National Defense Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Citation w/1 Bronze Device (2 awards), Zaire Airlift Letter of Commendation, U.S. Naval Forces Europe Letter of Appreciation, and numerous Command Petty Officer of the Quarter awards. Ms. Miller was awarded the AT&T Microelectronics National Volunteer of the Year in 1995 and the Lucent Technologies Humanitarian Service Award in 1996. She also received Vietnam Veterans of America, Region II James “Pop” Johnson Memorial Distinguished Service Award in 1998 and the Chapel of Four Chaplains, Legion of Honor Award, in September 2000 for her work with homeless veterans.  

She currently resides in Douglassville, Pennsylvania.

 

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