Congressional tax and budget negotiations were at the top of the agenda on my recent trip to Washington, but I’m pleased to report progress on another important but little-known threat to efforts to fight veterans homelessness in Ohio and throughout the country.
The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program is key to the national effort to end veterans homelessness and has made a huge difference in communities across Ohio. Through this program, HUD provides housing vouchers to eligible veterans and the VA covers the costs of services that help keep them stably housed. Without VA funding for services, HUD will not provide the voucher.
On Sept. 22 the VA’s Central Office issued an internal memo detailing how nearly $1 billion in various programs would be immediately reallocated into a general purpose fund. That includes $265 million in HUD-VASH services that would be reallocated – way more than any other single VA program on the list.
This puts the future of the VASH program in serious jeopardy since it will be up to the local VA medical centers to decide if they will fund VASH services going forward. This throws into question new enrollees for VASH services, and it even puts enrolled veterans at risk of losing their existing VASH assistance.
I raised this issue in meetings on Nov. 14, first with Pam Patenaude, the Deputy Assistant Secretary at HUD who agreed to continue to object to the new VA policy to get it reversed. We then discussed it with several congressional offices, including with Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus), who agreed to mobilize Congressional opposition to reallocating HUD-VASH funding for homeless veterans.
With pressure from both HUD and Congress, we are hopeful that the VA will reverse course on jeopardizing funding for VASH services. VASH has already enabled three states and 51 communities – including Dayton and Akron – to effectively end veteran homelessness. However, we must remain vigilant to ensure the VA’s reallocation plan remains just another bad idea. Call Rep. Stivers’ office and thank him for taking action to defend the VASH program: 202-225-2015.
Bill Faith, Executive Director