Merkley and Wyden Announce Key Wins for Oregon Veterans in Senate Passage of Military Construction Appropriations Bill

Washington, DC- Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that included in the Senate Military Construction appropriations bill that passed the Senate today are key provisions that will help Oregonians. These include $320 million for the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program and $496 million for the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) voucher program. These programs help veterans and their families who are either homeless or on their way to being homeless find a home. Also included is a bipartisan amendment led by Senators Merkley and Steve Daines (R-MT) that would allow Veterans Health Administration (VA) doctors to discuss and make recommendations about the use of medical marijuana with their patients.

“From fighting for the rights of our veterans to helping address the housing crisis that is gripping Oregon, my job as a member of the Appropriations Committee is to help Oregonians in every corner of the state,” said Merkley. “Our veterans have stood up for us, and we must stand up for them. We need to make sure that our veterans have a place to call home and are able to communicate with their doctors about all legal treatment options.”

“Our country must never forget the sacrifices made by all of our veterans, and a big part of that gratitude must be working to do everything possible to support them when they return home,” Wyden said. “This bill takes a significant step toward that objective both by helping servicemembers find a home and by ensuring all servicemembers have access to the full range of medical options in states like Oregon where medical marijuana is legal.”

Key elements of the legislation that passed the Senate today that will impact Oregon include: 

Homeless Veteran Funding: SSVF and the VASH voucher programs are both crucial programs to help veterans and their families navigate the rental market. The SSVF program promotes housing stability among very low-income veteran families who reside in or are transitioning to permanent housing. The SSVF grants provide eligible veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other benefits. The VASH voucher program provides permanent housing subsidies and case management services to homeless veterans.

Senator Merkley recently completed a statewide affordable housing tour to talk with housing experts, local leaders and Oregonians who have been affected by rising rental prices, lack of available housing and skyrocketing housing prices. During the tour, housing advocates underscored how important both the SSVF and VASH voucher programs are to help our veterans get the stability they need.

VA Medical Marijuana: Under current regulations, VA doctors are prohibited from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a veteran’s participation in a state marijuana program.  In practice, VA doctors generally won’t even discuss the use of medical marijuana with their patients. Earlier today, Congressman Blumenauer was able to win a vote in the House of Representatives to include similar language into the House Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

The bill was passed on the Senate floor today. The next step would be for the bill to be merged with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.