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Yarmuth Saves Veterans Program

 

House and Senate Approve Provision to Support Local Vets, President Expected to Sign


(Washington, DC) For several weeks, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) has been working to breathe new life into the Incarcerated Veterans Transitional Program (IVTP), which—despite tremendous success at helping veterans avoid homelessness and crime—was eliminated from the Department of Labor budget.  Today, Congressman Yarmuth announced that the work paid off.  A provision he sought was included in yesterday’s minimum wage and disaster assistance bill and will restore the program’s funding through the end of the fiscal year.  This will allow time to create legislation to fund and expand the program long term.  The bill passed the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by the President in the coming days.

“All of us at Volunteers of America appreciate Congressman Yarmuth’s support of our veterans,” said Jane W. Burks, President/CEO of Volunteers of America.  “Volunteers of America’s Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program is a critical service in our state and we are so grateful for the Congressman’s advocacy and support of this program.  As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are especially proud to serve those who have risked their lives for our country.”

“This is a program that both saves taxpayer money and provides for the men and women who have served our country so bravely,” Yarmuth said.  “It made no sense to kill a program with such an exemplary track record and, with hundreds of Kentucky veterans depending on these services, I am very happy that we were able to restore it.”

IVTP is a pilot program that pairs convicted veterans, who have served their time, with other veterans to help ease their transition back into society.  In the three years since its 2004 inception, the program cut recidivism by 90 percent among participants, at a savings of $1.6 million each year.  Despite these accomplishments, and a relatively modest $1.75 million budget, the Department of Labor discontinued funding after June 30th. 

In Kentucky, Volunteers of America spends between $700 and $1,200 to help each participant find housing, jobs, and training.  By contrast, Kentucky spends about $18,000 to keep an adult in prison each year.  Only seven percent of participants in the Kentucky program return to prison, well below the national average of nearly 60. 

IVTP’s resurgence caps a big week for Yarmuth, who helped Congress pass the largest Veterans’ healthcare budget increase in U.S. history and send the much anticipated minimum wage increase to the President for his signature.

Last month, Yarmuth sent the following letter to the Appropriations Committee calling on the funding to be restored.

March 19, 2007



The Honorable David Obey
Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
H-218 U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515-6065

The Honorable Jerry Lewis
Ranking Member, House Committee on Appropriations
1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6065

Dear Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Lewis:

The past few months have proven to be a trying time for the valiant and selfless protectors of our county, America’s veterans. The Walter Reed scandal has highlighted the need for us to invest often limited funding into programs with maximum benefit.  One such program is the Incarcerated Veterans Transitional Program (IVTP), a pilot program that pairs convicted veterans who have served their time with other veterans to help ease their transition back into society.  In three years, the program’s success has been remarkable, cutting recidivism by 90 percent at a savings of $1.6 million each year. Despite these accomplishments, and a modest $1.75 million budget, the Department of Labor has discontinued its funding as of June 30th. 

Implemented in 2004, IVTP is a three-year pilot program by the Department of Labor with sites in San Diego, San Pedro, Boston, Hammond, Los Angeles, and Louisville. Volunteers of America’s IVTP, in my district, is just one of the programs that has thrived and given hundreds of veterans a second-chance through rehabilitation and counseling from their peers.  The Incarcerated Veterans Transitional Program (IVTP) assists veterans in Kentucky who are exiting the corrections system by connecting them with transitional housing, employment services, mental health and/or substance abuse services and other community supports. Four case managers, all of whom are veterans, offer services to more than 250 veterans per year across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Because the Department of Labor is discontinuing funding, the IVTP’s throughout Kentucky will close, abandoning the 100 veterans who will soon be eligible to benefit from the program.  Based on statewide average statistics, 57 of them will eventually return to the corrections system.
Since its inception, the IVTP has successfully moved incarcerated veterans to self-sustainability as indicated below:
  • Of the 166 veterans participating in the program only 12 veterans returned to a correctional institution, a recidivism rate of 7 percent. According to the state average rate of recidivism (an alarming 57 percent), without this program up to 166 individuals would have re-offended and returned to a correctional institution at a financial cost of at least $17,000 per year per veteran, which translates to $1.6 million per year. 
  • Of the 166 veterans who engaged in the program, 99 percent of them were moved into permanent housing and 72 percent became gainfully employed at an average wage of $8.80 per hour (or $18,304 per annum).  In Kentucky, this level of income allows a veteran to pay market rate for a one-bedroom apartment with less than 30 percent of gross salary.  The aggregate annual wages of the veterans assisted by the IVTP program is more the $ 2.1 Million.  

The Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program in Kentucky has proven to be extremely effective in reducing the recidivism of veterans, improving the quality of veterans’ lives and reducing costs to society.  Currently, there are 100 veterans who are scheduled to be released from state correctional facilities in July 2007 and who meet the IVTP requirements.  Without your support these individuals are at far greater risk of re-offending and thus will lose an opportunity to become self-sufficient and contribute in a positive way to their communities.  
While I certainly recognize that the nation faces a difficult budget situation, I believe it is critical to ensure that this program is fully funded. At minimal cost to the American taxpayer, the program has already helped hundreds of veterans build new lives. Abandoning this success, and the men and women who served our country, would not only be counterproductive, but also send the message that our veterans only matter when our country needs them and not when they need our country.  I look forward to working with you to ensure that we make needed investments in these important programs in Kentucky and nationwide. If you have any questions, please contact Kiran Bhatraju (Kiran.bhatraju@mail.house.gov) in my office at 225-5401. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,


________________________
John Yarmuth
Member of Congress
IVTP Statement (05/25/0710:43 AMET )