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Two Bills Make a Difference

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Two Bills Make a Difference

Veterans' news

Over the past year I have spent a great deal of time and effort castigating the Congress for doing so very little for veterans. For that matter Congress hasn’t done much for the majority of Americans over the past year. I thought that I’d start the New Year with a change of pace. Something that might actually be less depressing than repeating a mantra of how bad Congress—both arms—has been. With that goal in mind I went looking for something positive that has happened for veterans. Believe me it wasn’t easy to achieve that goal.

The other night, I was invited to sit in on a conference call moderated by a group calling itself ‘Veterans for Obama’. It is a nascent group made up mostly of Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans who believe that the current administration is doing much more for veterans than its predecessor. Their intent is to encourage veterans of the past ten years of warfare to re-elect the President. One of the speakers was Tammy Duckworth. If you don’t know, or remember, the name, let me enlighten you. 

Captain Duckworth was co-piloting an Apache helicopter in November 2004 when it was struck by an RPG. The explosion cost her both legs below the knee and did significant damage to her right arm. She was awarded a Purple Heart, Air Medal and Army Commendation medals. During Tammy’s recuperation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center she was promoted to Major. After being fitted with prosthesis she returned to duty with the Illinois Army National Guard and currently holds the rank of Lt Colonel. It should noted that Captain Duckworth’s injury occurred well after President Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.” In fact several thousand American service men and women have been killed, injured and maimed since that farcical photo-op was staged.

But I digress. The purpose of the call was twofold: one, get veterans on board to support the president’ re-election campaign; and two, talk about what the administration has been doing to help veterans in the face of the complete paralysis in Congress. The big thing that was talked about was a joint effort by HUD and VA that is designed to do two very important tasks. The name of this program is HUD-VASH. The HUD portion is designed to get eligible homeless veterans into permanent housing. The VA portion is to get them treatment for whatever ills they may have. The program was originally started in 2008 but didn’t really get off the ground until after the 2008 election. 

This two-pronged attack was designed to fix a big need in the veteran community. Get homeless vets into a permanent shelter so they can have a fixed address and regular access to services at VA facilities. All too many of our veterans are homeless. This is a national disgrace that cried out to be addressed. Many of these veterans are in need of treatment for a wide variety of problems. These problems range from various addictions, to physical and psychological issues that do not get better without treatment and/or counseling. Without a fixed home base it is almost impossible to receive the treatments they need. 

There are only a very limited number of housing vouchers available here in Idaho—25 additional vouchers were added to the initial 25 issued on 6/3/2011—centered on the Boise VA facility, for a total of $338,448 (updated information released on 7/14/2011). Washington fares a little better with 175 new vouchers, with a total value of $1,072,950. The greater majority of that money in centered around the Tacoma/Seattle area.

The reason that there is so little money available is simple. Congress hasn’t passed a budget in almost two years. All we’ve had is a string of stop-gap ‘continuing resolutions’ to keep the government running at the same levels as previously approved. All of these programs were authorized by executive order to the two agencies involved and are doing a great good for the homeless veteran community with very limited resources. The other good aspect of this program is that it is ‘community driven’. This means that the money from the housing vouchers is parceled directly to local housing authorities so that they can try and get the most bang for each buck they receive. I found it interesting that there were no vouchers centered on the Spokane VA medical facility. I believe that is because there are no qualifying housing authorities in the Spokane area. I can find nothing to confirm or refute this.

With the ‘VOW to Hire Heroes Act’ signed by the President on 11/23/2011 and those actions taken under the HUD-VASH program a very small down payment has been made on the vast debt this nation owns to the less than 1 percent of our population who answers the call to defend our country. There is no way that the debt can ever be fully repaid but the above makes a start. 

Until such time as our elected leaders come to realize that ideological purity does not create good governance, and that nor will that purity solve our nation’s many problems, I am afraid we are doomed to muddle around in this morass until this truth dawns on them. I have great hope that the recent fiasco with the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extension will wake up the voter as to who is actually on their side come November 2012. When it comes to the approval rating of Congress I’m reminded of a line from an old Calypso tune, “How low can you go?”

This is my last article that will be written here at home in North Idaho. By the time you read this I’ll be once again on the beach in Mexico sipping cold adult beverages and working on my tan. For all you ski fanatics take a couple of runs for me. For those of you speeding along on your snowsleds be sure to sip some schnapps for me at the end of the day. For those of you shaking your shovels at the sky I’m glad it is you and not me. Until next month please try to stay warm and dry.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

Tagged as:

veterans, housing, Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth, HUD, VA, HUDVASH, housing vouchers, VOW to Hire Heroes Act, Gil Beyer, Veterans' News

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