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Veterans may get unclaimed clothing left at airport checkpoints

A congresswoman from New York wants the Transportation Security Administration to give sweatshirts, belts and other unclaimed clothing left behind at airport checkpoints to homeless veterans.

Representative Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., believes the abandoned clothes and accessories should go to help some of 75, 000 veterans the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates are homeless on any given night.

To address her concerns, Hochul introduced the Clothe a Homeless Hero Act last week.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter seeking support for the legislation, Hochul said it “directs TSA to make every reasonable effort to transfer unclaimed clothing to local veterans’ organizations or other local charitable organizations for distribution to homeless veterans and their dependents.” She said nothing in the bill would prevent either airports or the TSA from donating these items to charities of their choosing and notes that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that, if passed, the legislation would have no net budgetary impact.

Hochul’s proposal comes on the heels of a House Homeland Security Committee proposal that would give the loose change travelers leave behind at airport checkpoints to the USO. That money is currently used by TSA for operating expenses and, according to the agency, totaled $376,480.39 in fiscal year 2010 and more than $399,000 in 2009.

In March, the committee passed an amendment to the proposal that encourages TSA to partner with the VA and local charities.

In a statement to NBC News, TSA said it already "works with each state on how best to use voluntarily abandoned property" at airports. For example, items left behind at Los Angeles International Airport are donated to the California State Surplus, TSA said.

The Homeland Security Committee proposal on loose change is awaiting House action.

Find more by Harriet Baskas on and follow her on Twitter.

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