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Rep. Israel: Homeless vets to get $3.2B in federal aid

Homeless veterans on Long Island and across the country will receive additional help from the federal government, which has set aside $3.2 billion next year to pay for their health care and other services, Rep. Steve Israel said Wednesday.

The money, an increase of $421 million from this year's budget, is the largest amount ever allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Israel (D-Huntington), who sits on a subcommittee that funds the department, said at a news conference in Bay Shore.

"I know it gets spread across the country, but $3.2 billion is not something to sneeze at," said Frank Amalfitano, president of the United Veterans Beacon House in Bay Shore, a nonprofit group that provides housing and other services to Long Island's homeless vets. "It's going help a lot of returning veterans."

The number of homeless vets in Suffolk totals 1,261, compared with 1,023 in Nassau, according to a 2008 survey conducted by veterans affairs. There are an estimated 131,000 homeless vets nationwide.

The numbers include those who sleep on the street as well as those in shelters and transitional homes.

"I call this America's hidden shame," Israel said.

Additional funds, which President Barack Obama approved last week, include:

$20 million for supportive services for low-income veterans and families.

$21 million to hire additional personnel for the HUD-veterans affairs supportive housing program.

$26 million for a Presidential Initiative to combat homelessness.

An additional $50 million to renovate vacant buildings on VA campuses to be used as housing with supportive services for veterans.

United Veterans Beacon House has 185 beds available throughout Long Island and 115 of them have been set aside for homeless veterans, Amalfitano said.

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