Frontiersman: Senators Murkowski, Tester lead bipartisan push to protect critical services, essential resources for veterans

This week, the Critical Health Access Resource and Grant Extension (CHARGE) Act to extend veterans’ programs and services is set to expire, taking with it support for unhoused veterans, caregivers, and State Veterans Homes.

 To ensure continuous support for the nation’s veterans, caregivers, and their families, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Jon Tester of Montana have introduced a bipartisan bill to extend essential Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs and authorities currently set to expire May 11th.

 The Senators’ CHARGE Act of 2023 would ensure that measures in place to protections currently implemented by VA to curb veteran homelessness, support caregivers, and assist State Veterans Homes dealing with staffing shortages would remain intact.

 “I’m proud to be working on this effort to improve services to help homeless and aging veterans. I stand united with my colleagues in ensuring that those who served to protect us have the support they deserve and have earned. The lessons of the pandemic are not forgotten—we cannot forget about our veterans by allowing this authority expire,” said Senator Murkowski.

 “These resources have been a critical lifeline for so many Montana veterans, and we simply can’t let them fall to the wayside,” said Senator Tester. The Democratic Senator from Montana also serves as the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman.

 “That’s why I’m joining Senator Murkowski to protect these services on behalf of veterans and their families relying on steady access to quality care and housing. This bill honors the promises made to our men and women who served, and I’ll keep pushing to get it across the finish line as quickly as possible.”

 Among its many priorities, the CHARGE Act specifically aims to:

 Increase the maximum reimbursement amount for VA grant recipient organizations providing temporary and transitional housing for homeless veterans. This is especially vital for organizations in rural areas with limited access to alternative funding sources;

 Allow the VA to continue providing gap services and support to homeless veterans when other supportive programs are not available—including shelter, transportation, landlord incentives for permanent housing, and more;

 Extend authority to allow veterans and caregivers in the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to choose virtual home visits through this September, or until VA finalizes their new regulations for the program;

 Extend the State Veterans Homes’ occupancy rate requirement waiver until September 30, 2024 so that state homes are not financially penalized for staffing shortages; and

 Make permanent an authority that allows VA to share personal protective equipment, vaccines, medical supplies, and other resources with State Veterans Homes.

 The Senators’ legislations has received strong backing from Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and stakeholders nationwide many weighing in and applauding the bipartisan bill.

 “Combating veteran homelessness is more than just simply providing a roof over a person’s head, and oftentimes is accompanied by other financial struggles,” said the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Legislative Director Pat Murray, who commends the legislation for not only addressing veterans’ needs wholly, but also their day-to-day needs that can be just as impactful.

 “A critical component of the CHARGE Act is allowing for more flexibility in assisting veterans struggling to acquire food, clothing, hygiene materials, and other items needed for daily life. The VFW thanks Senators Tester and Murkowski for their commitment to eliminating veteran homelessness.”

 “The VA implemented a host of successful programs and authorities to address veterans’ homelessness and care needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; including provisions related to access to case management, caregivers, State Veterans Homes, and temporary housing,” said The American Legion’s National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola.

 “The American Legion is proud to support the CHARGE Act of 2023, which will ensure our homeless veterans continue to receive the resources and services they deserve, and applauds Senators Tester and Murkowski’s leadership on behalf of our nation’s heroes.”

 The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) also took time to commend the legislation, saying the priorities included in the bill are necessary for veterans and their caregivers continue to receive assistance and services vital to their ongoing health:

 “With regulations for the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers currently going through the process of being updated, it’s imperative that veterans and their caregivers can continue receiving services like virtual home visits until such updates are finalized,” said DAV National Legislative Director Joy Ilem.

 “The CHARGE Act of 2023 would ensure these, and other programs aimed at homelessness and State Veterans Homes are extended so that veterans and their caregivers can receive the services and benefits they have earned. DAV applauds Senators Tester and Murkowski for their leadership in introducing this important legislation.”

 The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ (NCHV) Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Monet says, “This legislation would extend successful, essential veterans’ programs and authorities set to expire at the end of the Public Health Emergency on May 11th.

 The bill includes provisions from the Healthy Foundations for Homeless Veterans Act (H.R.645), and the Return Home to Housing Act (H.R. 491) to make tools necessary for ending veteran homelessness permanent. “These critical authorities allow VA to provide more equitable funding for veteran transitional housing and wrap around services like transportation, communication and items for survival. NCHV highlights that Congress needs to pass this urgently needed legislation before May 11th when veterans are directly impacted, said Monet.

 “Now we need the rest of the Senate to follow Chairman Tester and Senator Murkowski’s lead and pass the CHARGE Act as soon as possible in order to minimize the disruption of vital homelessness services,” said National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Chief Executive Officer Ann Oliva.

 Senator Murkowski added, “This bipartisan effort will make a positive impact for Alaskans and the great organizations who dedicate their time and effort to serving veterans.”

By:  Katie Stavick
Source: Frontiersman