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More housing assistance for homeless veterans

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More help is on the way for homeless veterans in Montana and across the nation. Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a democrat, is a cosponsor of the Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act which has encouraged partnerships between the VA and community providers in fighting veteran homelessness.

The Senate late Thursday voted to add 11,000 new housing vouchers to the popular Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program. The initiative works with local housing and support groups to provide eligible homeless veterans with services that aid recovery from physical and mental health conditions resulting from homelessness.

Tester said that the increase, along with the recent passage of his VOW to Hire Heroes Act, demonstrates that supporting veterans is and should be a bipartisan issue. The Senate unanimously passed a landmark veterans’ jobs bill last week.

To be eligible for a housing voucher, veterans must qualify for VA Health Care, they must be homeless and must participate in case management services in order to receive permanent independent community housing.

Back in July, Tester brought Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to Montana to hear directly how housing vouchers make a difference in veterans’ lives. Within weeks of Shinseki’s visit, the VA announced two new $100,000 voucher grants for Billings and Kalispell.

The Senate’s legislation on Thursday, part of a combined appropriations bill, brings the initiative’s budget to $75 million – an increase of 50 percent. In February, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate the housing initiative, but the proposal was rejected by the Senate.

Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently participated in a ribbon-cutting event at the Willis Cruse Living Facility in Helena, which houses and rehabilitates homeless veterans in exchange for community service.

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