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Congress should expand rental aid for veterans, budget group says

Rental assistance for veterans has helped reduce homelessness since 2010 but “reaches only a fraction of veterans in need,” according to a new report. 

The report released Monday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) says a 33 percent drop in veterans’ homelessness in the last four years is likely connected to a rise in rental assistance.

The assistance helps more than 340,000 veterans. In March, 34 percent of assisted veterans lived in households with incomes below the poverty line, which is about $12,100 for a single person under age 65. More than three-quarters of assisted veterans lived in households 200 percent below the poverty line, the report found.   

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The report argued that most veterans aren't eligible for housing voucher programs, however, and Congress should expand them.

“Congress could advance those goals by continuing to expand the HUD-VASH program, reversing recent cuts in rental assistance, and taking measures such as funding the National Housing Trust Fund and establishing a new renters’ tax credit to assist veterans and other vulnerable low-income people,” it said.

HUD-VASH is a program that provides assistance to chronically homeless veterans with disabilities and only applies to those who served for at least two years and receive certain types of military discharges.

CBPP noted the 2013 automatic spending cuts also hurt these programs.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald on Monday announced the “largest reorganization” in the agency’s history. The effort is intended to improve services for veterans after the scandal that embroiled the department earlier this year.  

In 2009, the Obama administration aimed to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015. In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development counted 49,900 homeless veterans.