Allow More Flexibility to Allocate Funding for SSVF
VA Homeless Assistance Programs, including the joint Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program (HUD-VASH), Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, and the Grant and Per Diem program are a small part of the Veterans Health Administration appropriations account. Currently, the authorizing statute only allows VA to use $300 million toward SSVF. This cap limits the ability to add additional funds to the program at a time when we are approaching the goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. In order to reach this goal, it will be critical that we authorize SSVF at $500 million and provide that level of funding to ensure we finish the job of ending veteran homelessness.
Codify Existing Eligibility Standards for VA-Funded Programs
In order to meet the goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, we must make sure that we are serving as many homeless veterans as possible. The Grant and Per Diem and Supportive Services for Veteran Families program are and have been serving veterans who may not be eligible for the full range of VA health care services due to discharge status coupled with length of service. Recently, service providers have been informed that this cohort of veterans may soon no longer be eligible to access SSVF and GPD programs. A survey of SSVF providers estimated that this would affect approximately 15 percent of veterans accessing these services. With the HUD Continuums of Care already under great funding stress, allowing these veterans to access SSVF and GPD resources will be crucial in our efforts to fully address veteran homelessness.
By making a simple legislative change allowing these veterans to access SSVF and GPD only, we will be better able to ensure that homeless assistance resources are used more effectively and nearly all veterans who served will be able to get the help they need. Congress should pass legislation expanding the eligibility of the GPD and SSVF program to include those veterans with a discharge status other than dishonorable that may not be currently eligible due to discharge status and length of service.
Authorize the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans
The National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, a program of VA in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, supports the implementation of the Five Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness and has been integral in impacting policy and practice central to ending veteran homelessness. The use of the Center’s research and data analysis has helped drive positive change within VA, making VA homeless assistance programs more efficient and effective.
Permanently authorizing the Center would ensure it receives adequate funding, has consistent staffing and leadership, and would help guarantee that the great work being done there continues as we bring veteran homelessness to an end and look at broad systems changes throughout VA. Congress should authorize the Center as a permanent institution, thus allowing the delivery of high quality research on homeless veterans and the dissemination and use of sound prevention and intervention strategies by VA and its partners.