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Bill to speed support to homeless vets heads to House Floor

A bill making technical changes to the Minnesota GI Benefits statute was amended Tuesday to include language authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a veterans’ stable housing initiative.

That initiative would provide resources and support to help homeless veterans or veterans on the verge of homelessness.

In a remote meeting, the House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division approved HF4221, as amended, and sent it to the House Floor. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls), the division chair.

The companion, SF4193, is sponsored by Sen. Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo Township) awaits action by the full Senate.

Language to establish the stable housing initiative came from HF4224, sponsored by Rep. Shelly Christensen (DFL-Stillwater). That bill was approved by the division on March 10.

At that hearing, Christensen said services and other aid to homeless veterans, or veterans on the verge of homelessness, often get delayed because data privacy laws can prevent sharing information on a veteran with agencies that could help.

The proposed change would reclassify data on veterans collected by the Department of Veterans Affairs and allow it to be shared with the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Homeless Veterans Registry.

The existing restrictions on veterans’ data have resulted in “fragmented and inefficient response to time-sensitive crisis situations for individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” Christensen said at the March meeting.

The technical provisions in the bill would modify the state statute regarding Minnesota GI benefits. The changes are intended to clarify eligibility requirements for veterans to receive GI benefits for education, job training and apprenticeships, and professional licensure and certification.

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