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Opening Statement of Hon. Jeff Miller, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Thank you Mr. Chairman. 

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of VA’s programs to provide specialized services for homeless veterans.   VA’s first homeless program began in 1987, with the enactment of Public Law 100-6.  This law provided VA with $5 million to support care for veterans in community-based and domiciliary facilities.

Since that time, VA’s homeless programs have expanded and grown significantly.  VA budgets almost $2 billion to treat and assist homeless veterans and administers over nine specialized homeless programs that integrate housing and mental health and substance abuse counseling.    

Although it remains difficult to obtain an accurate count of the number of homeless veterans, there are indications that we are making good progress in helping to reintegrate homeless veterans into stable community environments and lead productive and sober lives.    

Still, there are far too many veterans out on the streets.  On any given night in my home state of Florida alone it is estimated that there are 17,000 homeless veterans. 

Critical to ending homelessness among veterans is being able to identify vulnerable service men and women early and make sure that these veterans are aware and have immediate access to the services and benefits available through VA and in coordination with other federal agencies.

With the increasing number of returning veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the development of innovative services to help especially at risk veterans is extremely important.

Another area of great concern is addressing the needs of women veterans and increasing the availability of facilities that are able to provide appropriate accommodations for women and women veterans with children.

Today, we will review VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program (HGPD).  

The Grant and Per Diem program is considered to be a very successful collaboration between VA and non-profit and faith-based organizations. 

However, in a 2006 report that we requested from GAO, they found that improved communications and follow-up could further enhance the program.    GAO reported that liaisons responsible for coordinating with local providers sometimes found it hard to assist due to large caseloads and other administrative tasks within their duties and a VA identified need for an additional 9,600 beds. 

Our Committee has always worked in a bipartisan manner to strengthen health care, housing, employment training, and other services to assist at risk veterans. 

I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Michaud to provide aggressive oversight of VA’s implementation of homeless programs and establish greater federal collaboration between VA, HUD, and HHS to coordinate efforts to assist homeless veterans.

I would like to welcome all of our witnesses.  Especially I would like to thank Kathryn Spearman with the Volunteers of America, Florida for participating in our hearing this morning.  I am grateful for your dedication and many years of work to provide services to assist homeless veterans in my home state of Florida. 

Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.