Behind the challenges homeless veterans face stands a less visible problem: the children experiencing homelessness with them. “The truth is, if we're not taking care of their families, we're not …
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Behind the challenges homeless veterans face stands a less visible problem: the children experiencing homelessness with them.
“The truth is, if we're not taking care of their families, we're not taking care of them,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, at a gathering on housing issues at the Aurora City Council chambers.
Coffman discussed his proposed legislation, the Homeless Veteran Families Act, at the June 11 Innovative Housing Symposium organized by Mile High Behavioral Healthcare. The bill, H.R. 4099, seeks to provide assistance to veterans' children — currently, services for those children aren't funded by a veterans-assistance program.
“Vets have a choice between accessing services and staying with their children,” Coffman said.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, referred to as the VA, provides funding to community agencies that help homeless veterans, but the VA can't provide money to cover costs of services for child dependents of homeless veterans. That leaves some homeless shelters giving preference to non-veteran homeless families because they can get funding to cover their children under federal rules, according to a news release by Coffman's office.
That “horrible gap” in support for children of veterans, Coffman said, could be remedied by the bill, which has about 180 cosponsors, or supporters, in Congress, according to Coffman.
The proposal would allow the VA to reimburse service providers under its Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem program at a 50 percent rate for the costs of housing minor dependents of homeless veterans while the veterans receive services, according to the release.
“The pushback we're getting is the cost,” but lawmakers may try to find a way to offset it in the VA budget, Coffman said. “I think the VA is very top-heavy in terms of the bureaucracy."
The bill has support from several veterans' organizations, including the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, The American Legion, the Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Got Your 6, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Military Order of the Purple Heart and American Veterans (AMVETS), according to the release.
“The best way we can thank our veterans is by supporting them and helping them to support their greatest treasure, their immediate family members,” said James Gillespie, who represents the Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter in Aurora, according to the release.
Coffman and Julia Brownley, D-California, introduced the bill Oct. 24 in the House of Representatives. It has not moved forward in the legislative process, according to GovTrack, an organization that follows bills through Congress.
Coffman represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes Aurora, Centennial, Littleton, Highlands Ranch and part of Adams County, among other areas.
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