VA reverses plan to cut homeless veteran housing program after outrage
The Department of Veterans Affairs has reversed course on a plan to essentially end a $460 million program that helps provide housing to homeless veterans after facing blowback when news of the decision broke.
VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a statement that “there will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” and the department “will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program,” which allows veterans to seek health care at facilities outside the VA.
Shulkin also said that over the next six months he 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.”
“Based on that input we will come forward with proposals for fiscal year 2019 on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funding,” he added.
Politico reported Wednesday that the VA told advocates and state officials in a Dec. 1 phone call that the program — which provides housing vouchers to veterans via the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — would be drastically cut.
Money allocated to the program would instead go to VA hospitals for use as they see fit, Shulkin reportedly said.
Veterans advocates, lawmakers and some HUD officials pushed back on the move, contending that it would worsen conditions for veterans — more than half of those housed via the program have problems like chronic illness or substance abuse.
The reversal adds to an odd series of events in which the VA seemed to contradict its own messaging.
The VA made the decision to cut the program in September but did not consult with HUD or veterans’ groups before doing so, Politico reported.
Shulkin and HUD Secretary Ben Carson then held a joint press conference Nov. 27 at a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter during which the two announced a new commitment to ending homelessness among U.S. veterans.
On Dec. 1, Shulkin’s staff said on the phone call that the department was ending the program.