White House touts progress on ending vet homelessness

The White House says it is making strides in its push to end homelessness among veterans and help returning service members get an education.

President Obama is expected to tout the new measures in a Veterans Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, more than a year after a scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs shook the administration.

ADVERTISEMENT

Virginia will announce it has become the first state in the country to end veteran homelessness entirely statewide. The commonwealth joins Connecticut, which in August became the first state to end chronic homelessness among veterans.

On the national level, the number of veterans without homes has fallen 36 percent since the beginning of 2010, when the administration launched an initiative to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year, according to new figures from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While the number of homeless vets has decreased each year, White House officials acknowledged they need to do more to meet their goal.  

“We have made tremendous progress but there is a lot of work to do,” domestic policy director Cecilia Muñoz told reporters on a conference call.

In an effort to reduce the cost of higher education, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are now offering in-state tuition to recently returning veterans, the White House said. The move stemmed from a bipartisan VA reform law Obama signed last August.

The VA is also partnering with the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on deceptive advertising and enrollment practices that schools use to attract veterans.

The announcements are meant to show the administration is moving past last year’s VA scandal, which sparked doubts about whether the government can care for the nation’s veterans.

The VA’s former secretary, Eric ShinsekiEric Ken ShinsekiSenate confirms Trump's VA pick despite opposition from some Dems Trump VA pick boosts hopes for reform Trump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he’s ready for job MORE, resigned last May after it was revealed that agency employees covered up long wait times for veterans seeking medical care in hospitals across the country.

For years, the VA has also been flooded with complaints about a massive backlog for disability benefits.

The latest black eye for the scandal-plagued agency came earlier this year, when two senior VA officials were accused of pushing out colleagues out of their jobs for personal financial gain.

The White House said that the current backlog for disability claims stands at 76,000, an 88 percent reduction from its peak in March 2013. The VA completed a record 1.4 million claims in the last fiscal year.

Officials are also touting a plan the agency submitted to Congress this month to streamline several programs that provide private healthcare to veterans.