U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) today sent the following letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin asking for a full briefing and explanation of the agency’s latest decision to cut more than $460 million in dedicated funding from a program designed to help homeless veterans find housing – essentially eliminating the program.
The Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program has helped find housing more than 138,000 veterans across the country since 2010.
Following is text of Nelson’s letter sent to VA Secretary Shulkin. A pdf copy is available here.
December 8, 2017
The Honorable David J. Shulkin, M.D.
Department of Veteran Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20420
Dear Secretary Shulkin,
I write to you today to request a briefing on recent actions that your department has taken in regards to the Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
I find your recent announcement to move over $460 million in funding for this critical program to be deeply concerning. It has been reported that since 2010, HUD-VASH has directly assisted 138,000 veterans and cuts the number of homeless veterans by 46 percent. This program assists veterans that are most in need of help. Necessary to the success of the HUD-VASH program are VA Program Managers. VA Program Managers serve the essential function of ensuring that these at-risk veterans receive the housing vouchers and fulfill their responsibilities under the program’s requirements. Simply put, the VA Program Managers are critical to its success. Therefore, any decision jeopardizing the ability to hire VA Program Managers by moving special purpose funds to the General Fund is unacceptable.
Further, while I appreciate your statement from December 6th when you announced that “there will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” I believe this does not go far enough and clarification is needed. Most importantly, we would like a direct answer on whether funds that were intended for Program Managers have been moved back to the special program line rather than being kept in General Purpose funds.
We’ve made great strides in reducing the number of homeless veterans, but over the last year the trend has been reversed and homelessness among veterans has increased by over 600. I know we share the goal of ensuring that no veteran lives on the streets, but each one of these vouchers that sits unused as a result of a lack of Program Managers represents just that. I look forward to hearing from you or your assigned designee on this critical matter.