Obama: 'We Will Not Leave Any of Our Veterans Behind'
Senator Barack Obama hosted a town hall meeting with Texas veterans today at the American G.I. Forum's Veterans Outreach Program, a transitional facility for homeless veterans in San Antonio, to talk about his commitment to combating homelessness among veterans and pledged a zero-tolerance policy for homeless veterans when he is President.
"We need to have zero tolerance for homeless veterans," Obama said. "On any given night in America, while we go to sleep in our homes, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fought for our freedom who go without their own home. Veterans make up 11 percent of America's adult population, but 26 percent of the homeless population. Already, we are seeing homeless vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's just not right. That's just not who we are as a country."
Obama, who sits on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has passed legislation to expand and improve services for homeless veterans including increasing rental vouchers to bring homeless veterans off the street, expanding treatment for veterans with mental illnesses, and facilitating transfer of property from the Veterans' Administration to homeless shelters. Obama has also introduced the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Act - a bill that would provide supportive services like mental health counseling, financial planning, and job training to ease the transition from military service to civilian life and prevent veterans and their families from sliding into homelessness.
"There is a U.S. military principle that we all admire: leave no one behind," Obama said. "That's the principle that we need when it comes to homeless vets. That is what I have fought for in the Senate. And that is why I have recently introduced the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Act, so that our vets have the skills and tools that they need to build a life after their service. This is not a partisan issue. This is a moral obligation. When I am President, we will not leave any of our veterans behind."
As President, Obama will maintain a zero-tolerance policy for homeless veterans. The Obama plan would:
* Increase access to long-term, affordable housing for veterans and their families
* Focus on preventing homeless by targeting at-risk populations with housing supportive services
* Expand rental assistance programs to get homeless veterans off the streets
* Create a Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In addition to his work on veteran homelessness, Obama has compiled a track record of standing up for veterans on a range of issues. His accomplishments include:
* Obama passed legislation in the U.S. Senate to improve care and slash red tape for our returning wounded warriors and their families who face deplorable conditions at places like Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
* Obama passed a bill to give family members health care while they care for wounded troops and introduced legislation to provide them a year of job protection, so they never have to choose between caring for a loved one and keeping a job.
* Obama passed laws to provide comprehensive supports to homeless veterans.
* Obama led a bipartisan effort in the Senate to try to halt the military's unfair practice of discharging service members for having a service-connected psychological injury.
* Obama passed an amendment to give recovering service members free meals and free telephone calls at military hospitals.
* Obama passed legislation to stop a VA review of closed PTSD cases that could have led to a reduction in veterans' benefits.
* Obama passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).