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VA Secretary Shulkin Preserves $460M Program for Homeless Vets

A storm of protest in December prompted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to reverse course and continue a joint program with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides housing for homeless veterans. According to the website, Shulkin had planned to end one of two major VA programs benefiting homeless veterans and redirect the funding to VA hospitals who could decide how to use it. The decision was reportedly made “with no input from rank-and-file VA or HUD staff and surprised even employees at the VA.”

A VA spokesman defended the planned redirection of funds to VA hospitals as a measure to “ensure resources go where they best align with veterans’ needs.” But the planned redirection of funds was widely decried by veterans’ advocates, some members of HUD itself, and members of Congress. Senator Patty Murray and the 13 other members of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee were vocal in asking the VA to reconsider its decision. Senator Murray referred to the plan to cut funding for homeless veterans as especially “callous and perplexing” when the latest data on veterans’ homelessness in HUD’s annual survey of homelessness nationwide in January 2017 reported a “1.5 percent increase in veteran homelessness over 2016 — the first rise since 2010.” HUD data also showed that the existing program has “cut the number [of veterans] without housing on a given day by almost half.”

Advocates are also quick to point out that veterans who have housing through the program “can easily lose their housing again.” More than half of these vets suffer from chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and substance abuse issues. Vulnerable vets “need VA case managers to mediate with landlords, pay bills, and help them access the agency’s services and jobs,” according to Matt Leslie, head of the housing program for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

As advocates point out, sheltering veterans properly not only sustains them in dignified circumstances but also spares their communities from expenses such as ER visits, ambulance runs, and incarceration that arise when vulnerable vets don’t get the services they need. At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, we believe our veterans who served this country honorably deserve services that uphold their dignity and we see the continuation of this housing program for homeless vets as important.

VA benefits attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban have more than 200 years of combined legal experience. For more information on how we can help with your appeal, call 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.

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