VA reverses decision to redistribute homeless veterans funds

Lester Mason
December 8, 2017

On Dec. 7, Shulkin announced that his department would not reallocate $460 million away from HUD-VASH, a collaborative program between the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Veterans Affairs agency immediately caught flak for reportedly deciding to end a program that provides housing for homeless veterans.

The announcement also follows an emotional "emergency" phone call that VA leaders had December 1 with Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Neal Rackleff and 150 veterans advocates.

The Trump administration's Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has backtracked on a plan to discontinue a program created to help homeless veterans find and maintain housing. "It's time we transform the VA into a 21st century health care system, one that respects the dignity of our men and women in uniform and provides all veterans the quality health care they deserve", he said.

In response, Shulkin put out a news release that essentially said "never mind" and that asserted the Trump administration actually wanted to increase spending on homeless veterans.

Politico reported Wednesday the department planned to kill the program and shift the money to local VA hospitals, which would then decide how to use it. "Over the next six months, I will solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most", Shulkin said in a statement.

Estimates are that there are still 40,000 homeless veterans on the streets today.

American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan said, "The bill, as now written, would modify the already existing Choice program, providing veterans with the 21st Century medical system they rightfully deserve". The program has been credited with reducing by almost half the number of veterans without housing on a daily basis. But cutting this program moves us backward.

Elisha Harig-Blaine, a housing official from the National League of Cities, told Politico, "I don't understand why you are pulling the rug out".

The courageous men and women who have worn our nation's uniform must have timely access to high-quality, comprehensive and veteran-centric care.

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Jerry Moran, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, have introduced the Veterans Community Care and Access Act (S. 2148) that will help improve veteran patient access to care. All 14 members signed a strongly worded letter, dated November 7, urging VA to reconsider its decision - a rare demonstration of bipartisan unity.

Democrat Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, a member of the subcommittee, blasted the decision as the Trump administration's "new low".

Shulkin himself applauded the program just days before the conference call when he and HUD Secretary Ben Carson visited a HUD-VASH facility in Washington. He had been seeking funds for 100 HUD-VASH vouchers but was able to secure only 50.

A VA spokesman declined requests from CNN to explain what had led Shulkin and the VA to change positions on the HUD-VASH funding.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

Discuss This Article