Nov. 2, 2012
The second session of the 112th Congress is coming to a close, and a number of contentious legislative issues remain: among them, the imminent "sequestration" and scheduled expiration of the 2001 and 2003 (“Bush-era”) tax cuts. The former issue is of particular concern to homeless veteran service providers because of its potential impact on the Department of Labor-Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS), which administers the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP).
A report released by the Office of Management and Budget on Sept. 14 details the impact of sequestration – that is, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to begin taking effect in January 2013, unless Congress intervenes. While this report confirmed that the entire Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget as well as all HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers are exempt from these cuts, HVRP remains at risk.
If sequestration takes effect as planned, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program could be subject to a $4.346 million spending cut. At present, the program is only funded at $38.185 million.
Leadership from both parties oppose these indiscriminate spending cuts, yet an alternative to sequestration has not yet been reached. Congress will be back in session on Nov. 13 to potentially decide on this issue.
NCHV Active on the Hill …
During the week of Sept. 10, NCHV participated in two roundtable discussions with congressional leaders: Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives. These discussions featured representatives from the nation’s largest veteran and military service organizations, and provided an opportunity to receive updates on legislative issues of major concern.
Also during the week of Sept. 10, NCHV participated in two congressional hearings. Baylee Crone, vice president of operations and programs, delivered testimony at a hearing titled “Housing for Heroes: Examining How Federal Programs Can Better Serve Veterans.” This hearing was held by the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity.
Additionally, NCHV submitted a statement for the record to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, for a hearing titled “VA Fee Basis Care: Examining Solutions to a Flawed System.” NCHV maintains that the fee basis care program could be well-situated to help fulfill VA’s self-described “no wrong door” approach to ending veteran homelessness, in which veterans who seek assistance can receive it from VA program, community partners or through contract services.
Both written testimonies are available for download here.
… and around the Country …
On Sept. 17-18 in San Antonio, NCHV convened the 2012 Veteran Access to Housing Summit, which featured targeted policy sessions on the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program, as well as collaboration among VA and community-based organizations (CBOs). The GPD Program sessions were timely given that Public Law 112-154, which took effect on Aug. 6, requires VA to complete a study of all matters relating to the per diem payment method, and develop a more effective and efficient method for adequately reimbursing capital grant recipients.
The discussion items for the VA-CBO collaboration sessions were derived from two reports that NCHV recently published: a report on NCHV’s nationwide member survey to gauge the effectiveness of VA’s efforts to include service providers in the Five-Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness, and a report on concerns identified by service providers at the 2012 NCHV Annual Conference held earlier this year. Both of these reports are available for download here.
NCHV will build on the input received at these policy sessions through continued dialogue with service providers and the VA Homeless Initiatives Office.
Recommendations for the 113th Congress
This fall, NCHV served in an advisory role for the FY 2014 Independent Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs – specifically for the section of the budget dealing with VA homeless programs. This budget and policy document will be released concurrently with the administration’s budget in early 2013. Among NCHV’s recommendations for the 113th Congress are the following:
The Independent Budget is co-authored by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and will be available for download in early 2013 at www.independentbudget.org.