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Gov. Brown signs laws to help veterans

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks after signing legislative bill AB639 that will ask voters to repurpose $600 million of existing veterans' housing bonds for use in building veteran housing Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

SAN DIEGO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed a number of bills Thursday aimed at helping veterans, including legislation that could provide funds to expand affordable housing to combat homelessness among former service members.

California is home to a quarter of the country's homeless veterans.

"Today we're doing something really good," Brown said of the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act before signing the legislation during a ceremony at the San Diego Veterans Village, which provides transitional housing and other programs to homeless veterans.

The legislation will ask voters in June to approve allowing the state to use $600 million of existing veterans' housing bond funds for multifamily, transitional housing.

Phil Landis, a Vietnam veteran who started the Veterans Village, said thousands of new dorms could be built for homeless veterans with the funds.

The bill was among a dozen signed by Brown on Thursday that supporters say will help veterans. They include one bill that would authorize the governing board of a county to grant financial assistance, relief and support to a disabled veteran and another that adds "military and veteran status" to the list of categories protected from discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Brown's actions come a day after Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who promised to end veteran homelessness by 2015, spelled out some of the dire consequences of a longer-term government shutdown in testimony before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Shinseki said 315,000 veterans and 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents will see pension payments stopped, and about 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability compensation next month if the partial government shutdown continues into late October.

Short term, there's been a delay in processing claims by an average of about 1,400 per day since the shutdown began Oct. 1.

The House has passed legislation that would provide veterans disability, pension and other benefits if the shutdown is prolonged. But the White House has urged lawmakers not to take a piecemeal approach to continuing government services.

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