Proposal aims to improve access to legal services for homeless vets

Proposal aims to improve access to legal services for homeless vets

As the country honored veterans for Veterans Day Monday, volunteers with the nonprofit group Veterans on the Rise handed out bags with everyday essentials like toothpaste and hand sanitizer for homeless veterans in Washington D.C.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) joined the group in handing out the supplies to the homeless.

"It's difficult," Veterans on the Rise Executive Director David Kurtz said. "I had a guy salute me here a little while ago. You could tell this guy was a soldier once. Nobody comes into homelessness on a winning streak. There's always chronic underlying conditions."

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Unresolved legal issues can be a big factor in keeping some homeless veterans on the streets. For instance, veterans with a dishonorable discharge are not able to get benefits through the VA.

The Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2019 aims to help the problem. It requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to give grants to groups that provide legal services to homeless veterans or veterans at risk of becoming homeless.

"That would go a long way to helping veterans who are homeless," Kurtz said.

"A lot of times it's getting them back into the system," Schrader said. "The idea to have taxpayer dollars to match up with the pro-bono work that a lot of our lawyers do on behalf of our veterans would be a wonderful asset."

It's estimated more than 16,000 veterans could get legal help through the grant program.