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Expanding the Department of Veterans Affairs Definition of "Homeless Veteran"

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. HAHN. Mr. Speaker, after over ten years of wars, we have a growing number of veterans in our nation. We have a responsibility to provide support and services for our soldiers once they return home. This includes the area of domestic violence.
Sadly, our brave soldiers who return home after protecting our nation are not immune from domestic abuse. As I've said previously, we have a duty to our veterans. However, current law fails to fully protect those veterans who have been driven from their homes because of domestic violence.

In order to reflect the modern day reality that there are more women in our military than ever before, it is important that we continue to update our laws to address emerging issues within this new trend.

The civilian definition of homelessness includes people fleeing from domestic violence. However, the current law the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to administer benefits for homeless veterans does not recognize those driven from their homes by abuse as homeless.

The full definition of ``homeless'' under the law includes the following: ``Any individual or family who is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the individual's or family's current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized, and who have no other residence and lack the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.'' However, the Department of Veterans Affairs currently defines ``homeless veteran'' based on an incomplete citation of the civilian homeless law.

That's why I have decided to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation with my colleague Congressman Runyan that would expand the Department of Veterans Affairs' definition of ``homeless veteran'' to include veterans fleeing situations of domestic violence and other life threatening emergencies. As a result, this change will allow those veterans who find the courage and the means to leave their abusers the ability to access the benefits that should be available to all homeless veterans.

This legislation is a bipartisan common sense bill that adds no additional cost to the taxpayer. When we introduced this bill last Congress, we were able to garner 72 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. The legislation also had the support of a number of organizations including:

By passing this bill, we will ensure that this especially vulnerable population of veterans has the chance to access benefits the Department of Veterans Affairs already provides. After fighting for our country, our veterans should never find themselves without a safe home to come back to.

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