(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation (S. 2960) to make sure all Native American veterans have a place to call home. Tester was joined by co-sponsors Tim Johnson (D-SD), Al Franken (D-MN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM).
Tester’s bill allows funds meant to help homeless veterans and veterans at-risk of homelessness to be made available to Native veterans.
Due to regulations governing the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), vouchers for rental assistance available under a joint initiative between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, known as HUD-VASH, are not currently available to tribal housing authorities.
“It’s simply not right that Native veterans, who are at greater risk for homeless than any of their peers, can’t access these needed funds,” Tester said. “Native Americans serve in the Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other group and yet many live homeless on tribal lands. They deserve better, and this bill will help them get back on their feet. I hope all of my colleagues in the Senate will join me in supporting this legislation.”
“I have been proud to use my role as Chairman of the Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee and the Banking Committee to support the HUD-VASH initiative. In recent years, this program has made great strides in addressing veterans’ homelessness. It’s time to expand this successful initiative to Indian Country and meet the needs of our Native veterans,” said Senator Johnson.
“New Mexico’s Tribal members have a proud history of military service and have played a critical part in fighting for our nation. We have a solemn responsibility to ensure these veterans receive the services they have earned, including safe, quality housing. This bill makes simple but much-needed changes in the law that will make it easier for homeless veterans and their families living on Tribal lands to transition from homelessness and into permanent housing,” said Senator Udall.
“Just as our nation has a duty to honor Veterans for their service to our country, America also has a commitment to our first Americans – known as the federal Indian trust responsibility,” said Senator Murkowski. “Alaska Natives and American Indians serve at higher rates in our military than any other race in America. We must ensure that our Native vets are not homeless, and this bill demonstrates a fulfillment of this simple promise we must keep.”
The HUD-VASH initiative aims to lift veterans and their families out of homelessness and into permanent housing. More information on HUD-VASH is available online HERE.
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