Legislation for Homelessness
While the legislation did not pass for homeless veterans until July 22, 1987, when H.R. 558 - Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act passed, defense bill legislation as early as 1983 included funding for homeless shelters on military installations. H.R. 558 is a general homeless assistance act that included provisions for homeless veterans but not specifically for women veterans. This law specifically provided funding for reintegration programs that would assist homeless veterans to re-enter the workforce.
The next legislation to pass, specifically for homeless veterans, H.R. 2672 - Veterans' Home Loan Program Improvements and Property Rehabilitation Act of 1987. This law establishes a homeless program “To assist homeless veterans and their families acquire shelter…” This program allowed the VA Secretary to enter into agreements with nonprofit organizations and states that would work for homeless veterans. But this legislation still leaves out women veterans.
The earliest known legislation to assist or target women veterans is H.R. 2716 – Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act of 2001. It had directed the VA Secretary to carry out a grant program for homeless veterans with special needs, and this specifically included women who have care of minor dependents. During this time and prior to this law’s enactment, women veterans have made complaints that they were turned away because the VA’s homeless program did not have facilities for women veterans and their children. Almost nine years later, Congress passed H.R.3219 - Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010, which reauthorized the homeless veterans’ reintegration program. It specifically includes women veterans and those women veterans with children. It also directed monitoring of the expenditures of funds in this program. The following congressional sessions reauthorized these programs.
H.R. 8247 - Veterans COMPACT Act of 2020, passed December 5, 2020, provided funding and directions to do a gap analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs programs that aid women veterans who are homeless or precariously housed to identify the areas in which such programs are failing to meet the needs of such women.
A few days later, H.R. 7105 - Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 was passed to provide flexibility for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in caring for homeless veterans during a covered public health emergency and to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a retraining assistance program for unemployed veterans. This legislation included the Deborah Sampson Act, a long-advocated collection of funding and direct orders for women veterans. This portion of H.R. 7105 was dedicated to improving access for women veterans at the VA.
Then, on November 30, 2021, S.796 - Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021 was passed. While this bill does not directly target homelessness for women veterans, it does direct the GAO to provide several recommendations. One of these recommendations is to address homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, and related issues among pregnant and postpartum veterans.