David Shulkin, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, issued this assurance following a backlash to an earlier VA plan to reduce funding for homeless Veterans and a rising statistic of veteran homelessness.
The move, if carried out, would have taken funding out of HUD-VASH program for homeless Veterans and into CHOICE, another VA program that does not require Veterans to seek health services in VA facilities.
Of Homeless Veterans and HUD-VASH
“There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs. We will not be shifting any homeless program money to the CHOICE program,” Secretary Shulkin said in a statement dated Dec. 6, 2017.
Advocates have argued that cutting the budget for HUD-VASH — a joint program by the VA and HUD — would have exposed chronically ill and vulnerable homeless Veterans, according to Politico.
In dollars, the program is worth $460 million, Politico noted. The move would have eliminated $265 million immediately and $195 million taken out of the VA’s budget for 2018.
HUD-VASH stands for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing. The program intends to permanently house homeless Veterans and their families.
Veterans who are experiencing long-term or repeated homelessness may be eligible for rental assistance vouchers from the HUD that can be used in privately-owned housing.
Per the HUD’s 2015 count, more than 78,000 Veterans have received such vouchers.
Since 2010, these HUD vouchers and VA programs to end homelessness have “permanently housed, rapidly rehoused, or prevented from falling into homelessness” more than 480,000 Veterans and their families, according to an HUD statement that was released on the same day as Sec. Shulkin’s statement.
Ending Veteran Homelessness
Per the HUD, targeted intervention and intense planning led to a decrease in veteran homelessness to 46% since 2010.
Notwithstanding those initiatives, more Veterans continue to experience homelessness. There were 40,056 Veterans experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2017 – a 1.5-percent increase from 2016 per the latest HUD data.
The rise has been attributed to Los Angeles County and City. If these areas were taken out, veteran homelessness actually dropped 3.2% since 2016, the HUD said.
As Politico noted, cuts to HUD-VASH would also mean local governments bearing higher healthcare costs/services for Veterans.
The program has case managers that may connect Veterans with or refer them to relevant services for health conditions, mental health, substance use, etc. HUD-VASH counseling and treatment are one way for Veterans to remain in their housing.
Indeed, the HUD statement quoted Sec. Shulkin about the VA’s commitment to helping “Veterans find stable housing” and come up with solutions in areas where higher rents are driving Veterans to become homeless.
Sec. Shulkin in his own statement said that Pres. Trump is allocating another $66 million for VA homeless programs for the fiscal year 2018.
Moreover, the VA secretary announced that he is seeking input from local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how to target the homeless funding where it is needed the most. The input will be part of proposals for FY 2019.
Here’s a round-up of relevant VA programs for homeless Veterans. For more information, visit this page.