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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Bob Dettmer (R)

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Friday, October 18, 2013

ST. PAUL – State Representative Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) officially began his work with the Minnesota House Select Committee on Veterans Housing this month. While Dettmer has been intricately involved with veterans legislation since taking office in 2007, the bipartisan committee was appointed at the conclusion of the 2013 legislative session by the Speaker and will examine housing issues facing Minnesota veterans, including veterans with long-term care needs and homeless veterans. The committee includes nine lawmakers and held its first meeting in early October with top officials from Minnesota’s Department of Veterans Affairs.

In cooperation with Governor Dayton and the rest of the legislature, addressing homelessness for veterans is a high priority for the federal government. In the U.S., the population of homeless women and minority veterans is increasing, but in Minnesota, the overall percentage of homeless veterans is decreasing. Still, the aging population of veterans in Minnesota has growing needs for long-term care. The passing of funding for completion of Stage 3 of the Minneapolis Veterans Home during the 2013 session was one step the state has taken to alleviate this problem. Once completed, the renovations of this facility will hold 541 total beds to care for veterans. Rep. Dettmer was a key lawmaker who pushed for this project in 2013 bonding legislation which ultimately became law.

“While we have a long way to go, I commend Speaker Paul Thissen for commissioning this select committee and also want to thank my colleagues from both parties who helped pass critical funding for the Minneapolis Veterans Home,” said Dettmer. “Our veterans make countless sacrifices for us, so eliminating homelessness and long-term care capacity issues in Minnesota is a top priority for me.”

The committee has so far received extensive briefings on overall progress of veterans housing, including the Minneapolis project, and long-term care in the state along with a review of priorities from the federal government. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) projects the veteran population will decrease over the next 30 years. In Minnesota, veterans are slightly older than the national average and one-fourth of the state’s veterans live in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties – this is also where the greatest growth in need for care is predicted.

“We have not done enough to address mental health issues among veterans, which, along with physical disabilities, can contribute to homelessness,” explained Dettmer. “Our future solutions for caring for veterans will include a continuum of different services, such as temporary housing, long-term care, long-term housing, transitional housing, emergency shelters, and assistance along the way that may result in homeownership for young vets and their families.”