Thursday, February 24, 2011

Connolly Says House GOP Turned Its Back On Veterans

It seems like almost every time you turn around nowadays you find yet another other reason the GOP budget that passed Saturday morning is absolutely horrible. While the Republicans want to talk about anything but the true ramifications of their budget proposal, Democrats refuse to sit idly by and watch vital programs be unnecessarily cut. Rep. Gerry Connolly, for instance, spoke out yesterday about how the GOP’s continuing resolution terminates a program that helps homeless veterans.

While I don’t agree with why we went into Iraq and believe there have been some miscues in our strategy in Afghanistan, I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women who have put their life on the line to defend our country. As Gerry pointed out, that is why the elimination of a $75 million program that offers housing vouchers to homeless veterans in the U.S. “is one of the most egregious examples of an array of unconscionable proposals” put forward in the GOP’s continuing resolution. With all their talk about wanting to support our troops, this move suggests “the House GOP leadership has turned their backs on brave men and women” when they need our help the most.

To get an idea of the situation at hand, at least 75,000 veterans were homeless in January of 2009 and 136,334 veterans have spent the night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing. What makes these numbers even more disturbing is that these numbers have been increasing in recent years. That is why it’s so important to have a program like the one the GOP wants eliminated. Through a coordinated effort between the Veterans Affairs Department and the Department of Housing & Urban Development, the government was able to provide resources that would help stabilize the lives of thousands of veterans.

It’s also worth noting that the Democrats aren’t just rallying behind battling veteran homelessness in order to win political points, but have actually been addressing this issue for quite some time now. President Obama, for instance, wants to reach the goal of ending homelessness among veterans in five years and has put the Department of Veterans Affairs in charge of the efforts. Part of those efforts was this program (HUD/VA Supportive Housing) and it had offered housing vouchers for more than 10,000 veterans across the nation in the past year and another 20,000 since 2008. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan indicated to Congress last year that a total of at least 60,000 vouchers would be required to respond to the urgent need.

While I understand that we are in tough economic times, this is just not the program that should be cut in order to make sure that the extremely wealthy can keep their Bush era tax cuts. Gerry Connolly gets how the GOP priorities have allowed the budget process to become “thoughtless and insensitive.”
“The fact that this absolutely critical program was placed on a list of expenditures to be terminated in the Republican budget is indicative of how thoughtless and insensitive the process became after the most conservative members of the Republican caucus demanded further cuts in a budget that would already have caused tremendous harm and dislocation throughout the country.

“As long as there are veterans sleeping in shelters, cars, under bridges and on the streets, we have an obligation to continue this voucher program.”
Fortunately, Connolly said he expects the Senate will act responsibly and produce a short-term budget plan that reinstates the homeless veterans funding and other critical funding.

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