It appears that the Department of Veterans Affairs is retreating in His divisive plan reassigned almost five hundred million dollars of a successful program to reduce homelessness among former military personnel, yielding to pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups that criticized the effort as cruel and counterproductive.
The radical change announced in a statement on Wednesday The night of VA secretary David Shulkin followed a Washington Post investigation into the Trump administration's effort to divert funding, totaling $ 460 million, into change to local VA hospitals for discretionary use. As Politico reported for the first time, that money went specifically to a voucher program, administered by VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides long-term housing for the country's most vulnerable military veterans, many of whom suffer mental disorders. disease.
"There will be absolutely no change in funds to support our programs for the homeless," Shulkin said. "… In the next six months, I will solicit the opinion of our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to allocate our funds to the geographic areas that need it most." Based on that information, we will present proposals for the fiscal year 2019 on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funds. "
The announcement also follows an emotional "emergency" call that the VA leaders had on Dec. 1 with Housing and Deputy Secretary of Urban Development Neal Rackleff and 150 veterans' advocates. The group complained that the change in resources, as detailed in an internal VA memo distributed this fall, "would drastically undermine what was a true success story," said Elisha Harig-Blaine, leader of the National League nonprofit Cities that were in the call.
"It is simply excessive to take this action without consulting HUD or the many mayors who have worked so hard on this," said Harig-Blaine. "The former troops that used these coupons are the most likely to die on American streets."
Shulkin faced additional pressure from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. The 14 members signed a highly drafted letter, dated November 7, in which they urged the VA to reconsider its decision, a rare demonstration of bipartisan unity. "The change", warned the legislators, "could have tremendous involuntary consequences".
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Member of the subcommittee, described the measure as "mean and incorrect".
Since 2008, around 138,000 homeless veterans have found permanent housing due to this program, known as HUD-VASH, according to government data. And since 2009, the lack of housing for veterans has decreased by 45 percent, a progress that many attributed to the promise of President Barack Obama to increase the funds directed to the problem.
On Wednesday, HUD announced that between 2016 and 2017, the number of homeless veterans increased 2 percent, or about 600 people, the first increase since 2010. Many live on the West Coast, where rents soared faster than revenue, said HUD officials.
Curt Cashour, VA spokesman, said on Wednesday that he would allow local hospitals to use these funds as they wish "to strengthen the capacity of local VA leaders, who know their neighborhoods and veterans better, to serve veterans to local level ".
"Although some may think that Washington bureaucrats are better able to make decisions about local VA problems than local VA leaders," he added, "we strongly disagree."
Uncertainty about funding has created problems for veterans advocates such as Leon Winston, hief operations officer for Swords To Plowshares, a non-profit organization in Northern California. He had been seeking funds for 100 HUD-VASH vouchers but could only insure 50.
"The human impact is that 50 fewer veterinarians in San Francisco will be able to get vouchers through HUD-VASH and, well, it sucks," Winston said. "There was a great effort to end the lack of housing, and this indicates that as a nation we are taking off."
Transcript: Veterans in America – A conversation with VA Secretary David Shulkin
The Senate panel advances a $ 3.4 billion plan to dramatically expand benefits for caregivers of veterans
A sign of gentrification? Advocates question the morality, the usefulness of the cleanups of homeless camps of D.C.
A reason why many veterans are homeless? They can not pay lawyers.