Trump administration backtracks on cuts to program helping homeless veterans after outrage

Ceria Alfonso
Diciembre 8, 2017

"Based on that input we will come forward with proposals for fiscal year 2019 on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funding". This program provides vital necessities to homeless and low-income veterans throughout the nation at stand downs, shelters, and other events, aiming to increase participation at these events so that veterans can take advantage of the many resources and community support that's available to them.

Shulkin's staff told homeless veterans advocates about the decision in a December 1 phone call.

Earlier this week, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced they were cutting a $460 million program created to reduce veteran homelessness.

"There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless program", Shulkin said in a news release on Wednesday, just hours after Politico published a report on the homeless program ending.

"Our bill would strengthen and improve the core elements of Choice by consolidating and streamlining the VA's community care program", McCain said in a statement. "... Over the next six months, I will solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most".

"The VA's central office made this decision and they talked to nobody", said Mark Walker, a deputy director of the American Legion who is an expert on veteran homelessness policy.

Flags are hoisted at the Los Angeles encampment of homeless veteran Kendrick Bailey on November 10, 2017.

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The plan would immediately divert $265 million from HUD-VASH and then reallocate the remaining $195 million in 2018. The program has been credited with reducing by almost half the number of veterans without housing on a daily basis. "These programs are now managed at VA central office in Washington, D.C., and this move gives control and management of resources to local VA facilities". "You're putting at risk the lives of men and women who've served this country".

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, have introduced the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017. All 14 members signed a strongly worded letter, dated November 7, urging VA to reconsider its decision - a rare demonstration of bipartisan unity.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the subcommittee, called the move "mean-spirited and wrong".

A VA spokesman declined requests from CNN to explain what had led Shulkin and the VA to change positions on the HUD-VASH funding.

"While some may think Washington bureaucrats are more qualified to make decisions about local VA issues than local VA leaders", he added, "we wholeheartedly disagree".

The decision to shift funding from the HUD-VASH program to a general fund at the discretion of local VA officials was especially surprising because the program is widely respected.

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