The Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be backtracking on its divisive plan to reallocate almost a half-billion dollars from a successful program to reduce homelessness among former military personnel, bowing to pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups who criticized the effort as cruel and counterproductive.
"I don't understand why you are pulling the rug out", said Elisha Harig-Blaine of the National League of Cities.
VA Secretary David Shulkin reversed his decision to defund the program amid backlash from veterans' advocates and Congress.
We will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program. All 14 members of the subcommittee signed a letter warning the VA that defunding HUD-VASH "could have tremendous unintended consequences".
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the veterans' affairs subcommittee, said the move was a "new low" and "especially callous and perplexing". By cutting funding for a program that has been proven reduce veteran homelessness - a program that focuses on those who are chronically ill, have substance abuse problems, or need mental help - it just assures our communities will have to more than make up the expense in incarceration costs and emergency room visits.
On Wednesday, HUD announced that between 2016 and 2017, the number of homeless veterans rose 2 percent, or by about 600 people, the first increase since 2010. Many live on the West Coast, where rents have soared faster than incomes, HUD officials said. About $460 million would instead be distributed to VA hospitals. Shulkin is thought to have made the decision after a joint press conference with HUD Secretary Ben Carson. He had been seeking funds for 100 HUD-VASH vouchers but was able to secure only 50. "There was a big effort to end homelessness, and this indicates we as a nation are taking our foot off the gas pedal".