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Sen. Young among lawmakers behind new bill to help homeless veterans

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) is one of three lawmakers pushing to curb veteran homelessness across the country.

This week, Young, Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced the “Veteran Housing Opportunities and Unemployment Support Extension Act.” The bill would allow veterans with other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges to participate in Department of Housing and Urban Development’s VA Supportive Housing Program.

“Roughly 25 percent of homeless veterans are ineligible currently to receive veteran’s assistance. What my legislation does is it opens up veteran’s benefits to these homeless veterans who received less than honorable discharges because they too were prepared to put their lives on the line for the country,” Young said.

Currently, vets with OTH discharges can’t receive federal funding to get housing. That limits the options of those at organizations like the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) who are tasked with helping Indiana veterans and families who need assistance.

“Probably 17-20 percent of the client base that we encounter is not eligible for the full array of veteran’s administration benefits because of the nature of their discharge,” HVAF President and CEO Brian Copes said.

In 2018, HVAF helped more than 1,200 veterans who were either homeless or facing homelessness in Marion and surrounding counties. If Young’s bill passes, the new support could help the organization increase their outreach.

“We could find you a sizeable list of veterans who would immediately benefit from this opportunity,” Copes said.

While it’s unclear if the bill will pass, Copes says the idea that lawmakers are fighting for these benefits gives advocates hope that help is on the horizon.

“You have to start with a stable, safe base of operations, this will provide that base,” Copes said.

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