Facing a quick and tough reaction from lawmakers and activists, the Department of Veterans Affairs has reported on a decision to cut funding for a successful program that helps provide housing for homeless veterans.
Politico reported for the first time on Wednesday that the VA planned to essentially complete a $ 460 million program that supports veterans seeking permanent housing. The program, known as HUD-VASH, provides veterinarians with case management and VA clinical services and rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The VA's plan had been to channel the money allocated for the program to local VA hospitals to use as they saw fit. Hospitals only had to show they were "dealing with homelessness" in some way, Politico reported.
VA officials reported that they shared news of the plan with defenders and state officials in a call on Friday, but "anger broke out," Politico said. Defenders accused the VA of "endangering the lives of men and women who served this country."
Hours after the Politico report was published On Wednesday, The Washington Post revealed that the VA He seemed to be doubting his decision, described for the first time in an internal VA memorandum circulated in September.
VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a statement to the Post that "there will be absolutely no change in funds to support our programs for the homeless."
"Over the next six months, I will seek input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to allocate our funds to the geographic areas that need it most." Shulkin said
The investment came after a torrent of criticism from advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
"The VA is rising from the ground," Leon Winston, an executive at Swords to Plowshares, an organization that supports homeless veterans in San Francisco, told Politico this week.
In November, all members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies signed a letter, shared online by the Post, "strongly" urging the VA to pause any action on its plan so that their "intention, consequences and implementation" could be better understood.
"The change [of funds] could have tremendous unintended consequences," the senators warned.
Even the first first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, intervened this week to criticize the proposal.
HUD-VASH is the largest homeless veteran housing program in the country. Since 2008, more than 111,000 homeless veterans have found permanent housing through the program, according to a 2017 report compiled by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
"Almost 40,000 veterans homeless on a given night and HUD-VASH plays an important role in ending the homelessness of veterans and decreasing that number, especially for the chronically homeless" Randy Brown, spokesman for the organization, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month.