Congressman Cuellar Includes Language in Appropriations Bill to Help Homeless Veterans

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Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) speaks at the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch Appropriations Committee Markup for FY19 in Washington on Tuesday.

Texas Border Business

Language would seek to assist homeless veterans with housing, burials, telemedicine, and more

WASHINGTON—Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) announced he included language in the U.S. House of Representative’s fiscal year 2019 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which passed committee yesterday, to support homeless veterans, including those on the border, to increase access to cemeteries for veterans in rural areas, and increase the availability of tele-medicine for veterans in rural communities.

Congressman Cuellar’s language has several parts.

Housing and Support for Veterans in Rural Communities

First, it encourages the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with local service agencies, particularly in small and rural communities, to ensure that voucher recipients of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH) are getting the most comprehensive services available. HUD-VASH is a cross-agency program charged with providing housing to homeless veterans.

The provision also calls on the VA to work with HUD to develop strategies and recommendations for addressing U.S. veteran homelessness near the U.S.-Mexico border and to take into account these undercounted veterans when awarding HUD-VASH vouchers.

Congressman Cuellar is working to ensure that the resources available to homeless veterans, including through HUD-VASH vouchers, are sufficient. The number of vouchers that the VA gives out in a specific area is determined by a number of factors, including HUD’s annual Point-In-Time Survey, which is meant to be a snapshot of the local homeless veteran population.

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The second provision recognizes that homeless veterans’ challenges don’t stop at finding permanent housing. They also need basic necessities, such as furniture, basic household items and other basic assistance. The Congressman’s provision requests a report to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee on the feasibility of a program for organizations to provide these supplies to newly housed veterans.

Burial Options for Veterans in Rural Communities

The Congressman is also working to improve access to burial options for veterans in rural areas. There are geographic pockets in the country that are not being served, as VA has failed to meet its goals of having cemetery access for all veterans to a burial option within 75 miles of a veteran’s home. The provision included in the bill requests that the VA National Cemetery Administration submit a report on expanding access to burial options for veterans in rural areas.

Telehealth Access for Veterans in Rural Communities

Congressman Cuellar secured language in the bill that would help expand tele-medicine to rural areas. Telehealth is the use of electronic and telecommunications technologies to support remote health care delivery for those veterans who cannot easily access a doctor’s office. While in many cases veterans can access a medical office, this often does not extend to the specialty care they need or those who are in very rural areas or are infirm. The funds and language, which encourages the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to explore innovative ways to use telemedicine to care for rural and infirmed veterans, have to be passed by the full House and Senate before being sent to the President’s desk.

Congressman Cuellar also secured:

  • language to ensure that military Joint Military Bases have adequate training facilities and that the military prioritize construction of training facilities that will diminish impacts on surrounding communities and increase readiness.
  • $196 million for suicide prevention outreach
  • Language encouraging the VA to implement a program that would designate a VA liaison to work with local law enforcement to address the unique issues facing veterans returning from combat
  • Language urging VA hospitals to collaborate with Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Congressman Cuellar said:

“I have long been a supporter of our armed forces and the men and women who sacrifice so much for our country,”Congressman Cuellar said. “That is why it is so essential that we honor their service by doing whatever we can to help our veterans succeed and thrive after returning to civilian life. The need for more comprehensive services for our community’s homeless veterans underscores the need for greater support for them in the form of housing. Once these veterans are housed, we must then make sure that we provide them with the furniture and supplies they need to live a productive life. We owe it to our veterans to make sure they are taken care of when they return home.”

Read additional language here.