July 28, 2017, by Brooke Faulkner – In 2009, Erin Shinseki, the then-Veterans Affairs Secretary, ran a large campaign on veteran homelessness in an effort to bring the number of homeless veterans down to zero by 2016 and the number of medical claims processed to 100 percent. Neither goal has been met but new systems have been put into place and the numbers are looking better than ever. There were 611,000 backlogged medical claims made by veterans in 2013. The number has dropped by 88 percent and is down to 71,000. The campaign may not have met its goal, but it is working to the benefit of those that have served our country.
Although the number of homeless veterans has been cut in half since 2010, the count in January of 2016 was still over 39,000. Far too many of those that have served in the military return home after being deployed to find that they no longer fit into society. A high number of veterans suffer from brain injuries and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that disables them from being employable. Some turn to drugs or alcohol to help cope with overwhelming emotions and memories of their experiences and find themselves abusing these substances.
A surprisingly high number of homeless veterans report being unaware of the programs that are available to help them find homes, get medical treatment and to aid in recovery from drugs and alcohol. During Obama’s presidency the funding for housing homeless vets went up by 300 percent, and it hit $1.5 billion in 2015. The following are some of the programs that have been developed with the help of that funding and the push by the VA to develop a solution for homeless veterans.
A collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and local public housing authorities. The HUD-VASH voucher is used as a means to get working veterans into low-income housing where they pay 30 percent of their income in rent, no matter how much or how little they make. The remainder of the rent is paid to the landlords by the housing authority. Each veteran that is issued a voucher is also assigned a social worker that works with them on any health care, mental health or addiction issues to ensure that they can maintain a lifestyle conducive to allowing them to keep their job and their home.
A VA home loan is available to veterans, active military personnel, and military spouses. It requires good credit and stable income but does not require a down payment. This VA loan enables veterans to avoid paying for mortgage insurance, has limits on closing costs, and has low-interest rates. Even if a veteran falls into homelessness as long as they can maintain good credit, or repair their credit while in transitional housing, they can still be eligible for this loan. This loan has helped over 20 million veterans to purchase a home.
Started in 2012, SSVF aims to combat homelessness and aids in re-housing veterans and their families that fall into homelessness. The program offers financial assistance and time-limited services for veterans that find themselves in financial hardship to help pay for rent, utility bills and/or moving costs. The program offers services to veterans to help them navigate their VA benefits and obtaining other state-supported benefits that may be applicable to their situation.
The GPD is supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care for Homeless Veterans by grants and per diems to create supportive housing and service centers. There are over 13,800 beds available nationwide, making this the VA’s largest transitional housing program. There are over 600 service centers where veterans can learn trade skills to help them to find and retain employment.
Veterans that are experiencing a financial hardship should visit their local VA to inquire about the programs available in their area.
- Veterans who are homeless can call or visit their local VA Medical Center to learn about the options available to them.
- Veterans can also contact the Community Resource and Referral Center to speak with VA staff about their current situation.
- Veterans and their family members can call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to access their VA services.
Author Bio: Brooke Faulkner is a mother of two and writer based in Portland, Oregon. She loves anything to do with historical nonfiction.