Shortly after the Department of Veterans Affairs broadcast their work to help homeless vets, they announced they would be cutting funding from a housing program designed to help the neediest and most vulnerable veterans, as reported by Politico. The funds, which originally kept the aforementioned housing program afloat, were to go towards Veterans Affairs hospitals, so long as the hospitals could prove their efforts to combat homelessness. Needless to say, this announcement engendered considerable outrage. Many people, including veterans advocates, HUD officials, and state officials, questioned the reason for the revocation of the housing program’s funding.
Representatives from several pro-veteran companies expressed their concern and outrage:
“I don’t understand why you are pulling the rug out. You're putting at risk the lives of men and women who've served this country,” exclaimed National League of Cities housing official Elisha Harig-Blaine.
Swords to Plowshares executive Leon Winston echoed similar thoughts:
“The VA is taking its foot off the pedal.”
Winston also noted that Veterans Affairs’ decision has already had undesirable consequences for veterans. The hospitals receiving VA funding are only able to accommodate a total of 50 vouchers for homeless veterans. This is half the amount of vouchers granted by the HUD.
However, Veterans Affairs appears to be taking note of the outrage created by their decision. Hours ago, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced a revocation of the VA’s prior decision to cut funding from the veteran’s housing program.
“There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless program,” reads an excerpt from Shulkin’s new release.
Shulkin’s decision to rescind the revocation of funds from the veterans housing program is quite admirable. Veterans deserve much better. These people risk life, limb, and everything to fight for this great nation. Many veterans return from combat and suffer from ailments such as drugs addiction, financial hardship, and PTSD. Those who possess the bravery and courage to fight for American freedoms deserve to be taken care of when they return from battle.
Throughout President Trump’s campaign for office, taking care of the many veterans which have been left behind was a key priority – as the VA is no stranger to scandal. In 2014, countless veterans lost their lives as they waited to get the proper medical care and treatment from a VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. To make matters worse, it was soon revealed that VA officials played around with unofficial wait lists and wait time data, thus depriving veterans of needed medical attention.
As a result of these horrific malpractices, President Trump has taken swift action. Since his time in office, 1163 employees have faced termination. 387 also faced suspensions while 61 others were demoted. Furthermore, the enactment of a program designed to shield “whistleblowers” has also come to fruition. Wrongdoing within the VA has existed as a prevalent and insidious force for far too long. Those who expose it should be thanked, not punished.
Since funding for the veterans housing program shall remain, now is the time for Veterans Affairs and America as a whole to focus on righting the wrong of homelessness among veterans. Revoking funding should never come into the equation when there are veterans starving and dying in the streets of this nation.
What message do high rates of homelessness among veterans send to others who may be considering serving the nation? According to information from the HUD, 40,000 veterans remained homeless in 2016. Moreover, the amount of veterans receiving care has decreased since 2010. With so much work to be done, cutting funding is the least appropriate measure.
“They can easily lose their housing again and need VA case managers to mediate with landlords, pay bills, and help them access the agency’s services and jobs,” reports Matt Leslie from the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. “The people in this program are the most vulnerable individuals. If someone’s going to die on the streets, they are the ones.”
Curtis Cashour, an agency spokesperson, also shared his thoughts on how greatly the VA impacts veterans:
“VA has a responsibility to ensure resources go where they best align with veterans’ needs. This move gives control and management of resources to local VA facilities, [which] know their communities and the veterans they serve better than anyone else.”
America has to do better. Terminating negligent and unfit employees within the VA is an excellent start. Housing programs designed to help veterans who have selflessly sacrificed themselves to protect the freedoms of this nation should continue to thrive and flourish. Fortunately, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin made the right call and killed the plan which would have cut funding being used to fight homelessness among some of the best Americans.