Eligibility for VA Homeless Programs: Congressional Talking Points
On a given night in 2015, 47,725 veterans experienced homelessness across the country. This number has declined 36 percent since 2010. Investments in the Grant and Per Diem and Supportive Services for Veteran Families have allowed many more homeless veterans to access critical resources needed to obtain housing.
House passage of S. 1731, the Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act, will be key to improving access to critical housing assistance for veterans and to ending veteran homelessness across the country.
S. 1731 codifies the status quo without extending eligibility for additional benefits.
- This legislation prevents a dangerous administrative policy change that would prevent homeless veterans from receiving the help that they need to obtain stable and permanent housing.
- More specifically, it clarifies that Congress intends that the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, and the GPD Special Needs Program all be available to veterans with an “Other than Honorable” discharge, and to be available to veterans without regard to the duration of their active duty service.
- This clarification reaffirms an already existing interpretation of the law that has stood since 1992.
- It does not extend eligibility for these programs to those who received dishonorable discharges, nor to those who were discharged following courts-martial. Nor does it extend any benefits (health care, pensions, or any benefits in Chapter 20, Title 38 U.S.C.) to these veterans.
S. 1731 is critical to ending veteran homelessness.
- On a given night in January, communities participating in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2015 Point-in-Time Count counted 47,725 homeless individuals who identified as veterans. (Use local data here to talk about the numbers in your community.)
- Without the clarification of S. 1731, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates it would stop serving 15 percent of the homeless veteran population enrolled in these programs, but in some urban locations, the size of this population could be as high as 30 percent.
- Nationally, this means that 4,500 veterans alone would be turned away from transitional housing assistance offered by the GPD program, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that the total number of veterans and families who would be ineligible for assistance in all three programs could be as high as 16,350.
- The only alternative for these veterans would be to seek assistance from already over-burdened and underfunded mainstream housing providers.
- Talk about the impact this would have on programs in your community.
S. 1731 would assist the most vulnerable veterans.
- Veterans with other than honorable discharges are among the most vulnerable veterans, due to their inability to access health care, economic benefits, employment preference, and other benefits that research has shown to be factors that protect against homelessness.
- Passage of this bill would also allow VA to continue matching veterans to the most clinically appropriate and cost-effective housing interventions.
I hope we can count on you to work with your colleagues on swift passage of S. 1731 in order to ensure continued progress toward ending veteran homelessness in this country.