Connecting Our Homeless Veterans

As part of the Obama Administration’s increased efforts to help homeless vets, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (V.A.) new toll-free hot line – 877-4AIDVET – provides emergency support and resources for homeless veterans 24 hours a day. Family members, community agencies workers and non-V.A. care providers can also phone the hot line to get assistance for vets.

One program, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is providing funding for permanent housing to help accommodate nearly 8,000 homeless vets. This was accomplished through a rental assistance voucher program that connects homeless vets from V.A. medical centers with local public housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing Program will provide the public housing agencies with $58.6 million earmarked to help these vets.

Additionally, V.A. case workers are working directly with local housing agencies to determine income eligibility which helps needy vets find suitable housing, renting privately owned housing and generally contributing no more than 30 percent of their overall monthly income toward rent.

In late July, HUD announced the second round of funding for another 1,355 rental vouchers, bringing the total funding for this year to $75 million for this outstanding program.

Personally, I feel this program is a long overdue necessity that should not be misconstrued as yet another government handout to undeserving slackers. It is in reality helping to make “broken” veterans whole once again, many for the first time since their discharge from serving out country.

Equal Rights

Disabled vets who suffer the loss of use of a limb would be treated exactly the same as a vet who actually lost a limb under legislation introduced June 17 by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.).

Her bill, HR5550, is focused on fixing what she says is an oversight under which vets who cannot use their arms or legs because of injury or illness are ineligible for benefits such as housing and automotive grants which would greatly improve their quality of life. “A poorly written law and stubborn government bureaucracies have meant that some of them can’t get resources that would help them – resources they clearly should be able to get,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick’s bill is now under consideration by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and is a good candidate to be included in an omnibus veterans benefits bill that will be prepared later this year. The only fly in the ointment will be that changing eligibility rules so that more vets would qualify means that the Veterans Affairs Departments’ costs will naturally increase.

How much this increase might be – something yet to be determined by the Congressional Budget Office – may become a big factor in whether Kirkpatrick’s logical proposal has a chance of being approved.

V.A. Police Authority Expanded

The Caregivers’ and Veterans’ Omnibus Health Services Act, signed into law earlier this year by President Obama, expands the authority of Veterans Affairs Department police officers so they are allowed to carry V.A.-issued weapons when off duty, make arrests based on warrants issued by any judicial authority, and enforce state and local traffic regulations.

Enforcement of traffic laws does not happen automatically. Instead, enforcement can only be put into effect if both the state and local governments involved also have granted the V.A. officers the authority to enforce their laws.

Stopping Power Approved

The Army’s provost marshal has agreed to the use of jacketed hollow-point bullets for law enforcement officers on Army installations in the U.S., a decision that came after a gunman opened fire in the Pentagon, the deadly shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, and the fatal shootings at Camp Liberty, Iraq.

These particular bullets are said to be more lethal yet carry less risk to bystanders because they lose velocity on impact. The new policy asserts installation police “require the tools necessary to secure our posts, camps and stations from both internal and external active shooter threats.”

With hollow tips and several lines of weakness, the bullets deform and fragment upon striking a hard-tissue (muscle and/or bone) target. Mushrooming into a larger diameter, the bullets create a larger wound cavity but penetrate only up to 13 inches versus ball (standard) ammo, which penetrates up to 24 inches. Hollow-point bullets literally have “stopping and dropping” power.

This ammo is barred from combat but allowed on overseas posts on a nation-by-nation basis. Criminal Investigation Command, military police, special reaction team personnel, and Department of the Army civilian police and security guards are all authorized to use it.

Acceptance of the use of hollow-point bullets for these specific purposes will undoubtedly occur in all branches of our military, including the Coast Guard, in the immediate future.

Semper Fidelis