W.Va. delegation supports vet initiatives

WASHINGTON – West Virginia’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday advanced veterans-related issues.

Rep. David B. McKinley, R-1st, with Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., reintroduced the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act, House Resolution 2065, requireing veterans’ homeless shelters to meet building and fire codes.

“It should be unacceptable for us to allow homeless veterans be housed in unsafe conditions,” McKinley said. “Fighting for our freedom, these men and women were put in harm’s way; they should not be in doubt about their own safety now that they are home again.”

Many shelters are not servicing homeless veterans in compliance with state, local or federal safety codes. There have been numerous reports of fires at shelters where dozens of residents have been killed or seriously injured. Unfortunately there is no law mandating homeless shelters that receive funding from the VA to meet code. This bill would require all shelters that receive funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs to have documentation that their building meets or exceeds all building codes.

“After seeing these conditions with my own eyes, we began to investigate whether this is something that is isolated or more instances are occurring,” McKinley said. “It was unsettling to learn in our research about shelter fires where lives were lost. As a licensed engineer, I found this to be an egregious omission in the law governing VA homeless program funds. “

The legislation was supported by the American Legion, VFW, DAV, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, PVA, the Homeless Veterans Coalition, the International Code Council and the Fire Marshals Association in the 112th Congress.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, said she supported the American Heroes Cost of Living Adjustment Act and the Stolen Valor Act, which would allow for an annual C.O.L.A. increase without congressional approval and would punish individuals who profit from fraudulently claiming to be a recipient of certain military honors. Capito also was among representatives in a letter to ask President Obama to end the VA backlog crisis.

“After everything they have given, Congress has an obligation to provide them with the benefits they have earned,” she said.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, on Tuesday also supported the C.O.L.A. act.

“The American Heroes C.O.L.A. Act will provide our veterans and their loved ones with a sense of security in knowing their annual C.O.L.A. will happen automatically each year, taking the politics out of the equation,” Rahall, a senior member of the House Military Veterans Caucus, said.

Rahall also supported HR1412, the Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act which directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to promote on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs available to veterans and to enter into agreements with the heads of other federal departments and agencies to operate similar on-the-job training programs.