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WASHINGTON — The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed on voice vote a bill that aims to speed up the process of getting veterans their earned benefits – a task that now takes between three and six years on average if a veteran is forced to appeal a benefits claim that is denied.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, or S. 1024, would create three paths for veterans to appeal their claims, including the ability to take their appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or request a higher-level Department of Veterans Affairs adjudicator to decide the case. It also requires the VA to improve how the agency notifies veterans about the status of their appeals. Some veterans have criticized the VA for going years without giving them an update.

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department Veterans Affairs (VA) and Veterans Matter — a program that provides security deposits to homeless Veterans in 14 states and the District of Columbia — today announced that, through their joint efforts, they have helped 1,500 Veterans exit homelessness and move into permanent housing.

Veterans Matter, supported by John Mellencamp, Dusty Hill, Katy Perry, Kid Rock and many others in the entertainment industry, was established in 2012 by the Toledo, Ohio-based nonprofit 1Matters.org, and focuses exclusively on providing security deposits to homeless Veterans who qualify for rental subsidies from the joint U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. In providing these security deposits, Veterans Matter removes a major barrier to securing stable housing for homeless Veterans.

“VA can’t end Veteran homelessness alone,” said Anthony Love, senior adviser and director of community engagement for the Veterans Health Administration Homeless Programs Office. “Partnerships with innovative, community-oriented groups, such as Veterans Matter, have played a major role in the decline in Veteran homelessness in recent years.”

“In collaboration with VA, we are able to make a greater impact for homeless Veterans than we could on our own,” said Ken Leslie, who founded Veterans Matter and was once homeless himself.

Once Veterans are housed through the HUD-VASH program, VA case managers can connect them to other supportive services — such as employment assistance, health care, mental health treatment and substance use counseling — to help them recover and improve their ability to stay housed.

Based on data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2016, since 2010, there has been an estimated 47 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans across the country. Further, HUD said, between 2015 and 2016 alone, the number of homeless Veterans decreased by 17 percent. In addition, of all VA homeless programs that assist Veterans, HUD-VASH assists the largest number of Veterans who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness. And of those Veterans in the program, 91 percent remain housed. The program has allocated more than 88,000 housing vouchers nationwide to date.

Department Welcomes New Volunteers, Strategic Partnerships to Better Serve Veterans

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that the 2015 Summer of Service initiative, which launched in May, has exceeded the goals set for community volunteers serving Veterans and the development of new partnerships to reach Veterans and their family members. VA’s Summer of Service mobilized approximately 300,000 citizens across the country to honor the nation’s sacred commitment to caring for Veterans.

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Pennsylvania Just Made It Illegal To Lie About Military Service | By J.D. PROSE, BEAVER COUNTY TIMES – A bill that would make it a misdemeanor to benefit from lying about military service or receiving decorations or medals unanimously passed the state Senate on Tuesday and now heads to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk to be signed into law.
House Bill 168, introduced by state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, bans anyone from economically benefiting from lying about their service or decorations. Violators could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor. “Our men and women of the armed forces and their families deserve the utmost respect and praise, and criminals who disguise themselves as illegitimate veterans demean our true American heroes,” Saccone said. “Some people have actually tried to make money by falsely claiming veteran status,” said Saccone, an Air Force veteran and a 2018 U.S. Senate candidate. “They will now be brought to account.” Saccone said lying about military service or medals to make money “is truly an insult and discredit to the men and women who have selflessly sacrifices their lives on the battlefield.” Saccone introduced the same legislation in May 2016, calling it the Stolen Valor Act. It unanimously passed the state House in June 2016, but did not advance in the Senate. When the new legislative session started in January, Saccone reintroduced his bill and it passed the House 190-0 in April. In 2013, Congress passed the federal Stolen Valor Act, which addressed those who might lie about having military decorations and medals, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart, in order to obtain benefits. Those convicted of violating the federal law can face fines and up to a year in jail.

Statement from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald on Oscar Win for HBO Documentary Highlighting Life-Saving Work of Veterans Crisis Line

Washington – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald issued the following statement on the Oscar win for the HBO documentary CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1.

“We are pleased that this film has highlighted the challenges our Veterans can face and the work of our dedicated Veterans Crisis Line staff to save lives and get Veterans into care,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “We are hopeful that this documentary will help raise awareness of this important issue with the American public. Our Veterans in crisis need to know that there is hope and asking for help makes them stronger.”

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