The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittees on Economic Opportunity and Health held a hearing on January 18 to examine the issue of veterans’ homelessness. The hearing included two separate panels, one for local service providers and another for officials from HUD, the Department of Labor, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Witnesses from local service providers stressed the need for additional case management resources to ensure veterans receive necessary supportive services in addition to housing. Both panels acknowledged high housing costs can be a substantial barrier for employed veterans looking to become self-sufficient.
Several service providers expressed concern about the VA’s decision, recently rescinded, to move funds for the HUD-supported Veterans Affairs Supporting Housing (VASH) program out of the special projects category into the general fund where they could be used for other purposes. Stephen Peck of US VETS, the largest veteran services provider in the country, asserted that this decision and the VA’s poor management of the VASH program suggests that the VA no longer sees getting veterans off the streets as a priority. Thomas Lynch of the Veterans Health Administration in the VA rebutted this claim, stating that the proposed funding shift was an effort to provide greater flexibility in the use of resources.
Another principal concern from local providers pertained to the availability of wrap-around services for veterans. They all praised the “housing first” model, which ensures an individual experiencing homelessness has a safe, stable home before anything else, but warned that the model was ineffective if not combined with mental health care, job training, and other relevant services. Several witnesses also stressed that some models like housing first are more effective in certain communities than in others, and programming flexibility is vital to addressing the needs of unique communities. John Clancy of Tristate Veterans Community Alliance spoke about his organization’s efforts to help service members better prepare for their transition to civilian life. Members of the committee supported working with the Department of Defense and VA to promote proactive policies to help service members successfully transition out of the armed forces.
Watch the archived webcast of the hearing at: http://bit.ly/2EVt1Wi