Washington, Jul 22 - Congressman Bill Owens today announced that Fort Drum has been chosen as one of five sites in the nation to demonstrate a new initiative that will address the prevention of homelessness among our nation’s veterans. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will award Fort Drum $2,000,000 to carry out the demonstration.
“The tremendous work done in the Fort Drum community to support our returning troops makes our facility an ideal location to address the needs of veterans who may be at risk of homelessness or experiencing short-term homelessness,” said Owens. “I am glad to see that Fort Drum will continue to play a leading role in the direction and support of our armed forces.”
In FY 2009, Congress authorized $10 million for HUD, in coordination with VA and DOL, to select a limited number of sites in urban and rural areas for the demonstration. The sites have a combination of the following: (1) high rates of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) military members with families and limited supports, (2) high rates of veterans that are homeless, (3) grantees with experience coordinating with the VA and DOL to help veterans access mainstream services (e.g. VA benefits, employment assistance, (4) are close to military installations where service members are transitioning from military service into civilian life, (5) are in rural communities that have veterans with limited access to VA medical centers. Also, the sites for the VHPD were identified based on the following additional criteria:
(1) The number of homeless veterans reported for that geographic area through HUD’s Continuum of Care;
(2) The number of unique returning OEF/OIF veterans who accessed healthcare through the VA between FY2002 and the second quarter of FY2009;
(3) The number of homeless veterans reported through VA’s Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Group (CHALENG) and the Northeast Program Evaluation Center (NEPEC);
(4) Access and availability to VA health care;
(5) Capacity of the community organizations to carry out the demonstration project;
(6) The sites will serve members from all branches of the US military – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
“It is critical to the integrity of our armed services that we increase the push to deliver benefits more efficiently to our veterans and expand the scope by which we support the brave men and women who have fought for our country,” added Owens.
In his first few months in office, Congressman Owens has cosponsored several pieces of legislation that aims to improve the quality of life for our veterans, including:
• H.R.667, Heroes at Home Act of 2009, a bill to establish a program on training and certification of family caregivers of veterans and members with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and conduct outreach to enhance awareness of veterans and the public about the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and TBI, as well as the services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans with such symptoms.
• H.R. 953, the Veterans Travel Tax Relief Act of 2009 , a bill to allow veterans a deduction from gross income for their travel expenses, including those of a family member, to a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center for treatment related to a service-connected disability or for an examination related to a claim for disability compensation or a pension.
• HR 2254, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, a bill to improve access to benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
• H.R.3441, a bill directing the Secretary of the VA to automatically returning members of the Armed Forces in the VA medical system upon discharge or separation from duty, for the purpose of reducing delays in service.
In addition to these bills, Owens has supported the National Defense Authorization, which included a Veterans to Work pilot program that seeks to employ veterans through military construction projects. He has also worked closely with community leaders throughout Upstate New York to ensure continued service from VA clinics.