To achieve our goal of ending Veteran homelessness, VA is seizing every opportunity to move homeless Veterans into permanent housing as quickly as possible. One of those ways was to change a procedural hurdle that was limiting our ability to provide housing assistance through our contract housing providers.

Under the rules governing VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program, we could only enroll Veterans who were diagnosed with a serious mental illness or substance use disorder into this program, which was designed specifically to provide bridge housing and other vital supportive services to homeless Veterans.

It was frustrating to encounter Veterans living on the street who were obviously appropriate for HCHV, but not be able put them into housing because they were not diagnosed with a mental illness or substance use disorder.

I’m pleased to say that Congress agreed with us and gave us the authority to make this program available to all Veterans who qualify for VA health care.

The new rules, which took effect June 1, allow VA staff to act faster — within a day or so, versus weeks under the old rules — to get more Veterans into bridge housing and on their way to a permanent home.

For one Veteran in Albany, New York, this newly granted flexibility was a godsend. The 48-year-old was healthy and working, but was evicted from his apartment, because he didn’t earn enough to afford his rent. Operating under the new rules, the VA team in Albany was able to secure the Veteran bridge housing through HCHV until more affordable housing could be found. Soon enough, a unit became available and after a brief stop in the HCHV program, the Veteran moved into a new home and is currently thriving in his career.

Other Veterans have benefited since the rule change and we expect to be able to help thousands more Veterans in similar situations. In fact, we estimate the rule change to expand HCHV services to roughly 2,300 additional Veterans per year, allowing us to provide approximately 18,000 Veterans with safe and stable housing under this program.

In addition to expanding HCHV services to more Veterans, the new rules amend VA’s definition of homelessness so it more closely aligns to the one used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This will make it clear that VA can serve a broader category of Veterans who are at risk of homelessness.

Finally, the rules bring VA regulations in line with what we know is a pressing need by stating that VA can provide case management services to Veterans through the HCHV program.

We welcome any tool that helps us get a Veteran off the street and into permanent housing, because that’s how we’re going to end homelessness among Veterans — one home at a time.

mcdonaldRobert A. McDonald is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Anyone can learn more about VA’s homeless programs and get involved. If you know a Veteran who is homeless or is at imminent risk of becoming homeless, refer him or her to a local VA Medical Center, where homeless coordinators are ready to help. Veterans and their families can also call 1-877-4AID-VET to get connected to VA services.

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Published on Jun. 3, 2015

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  1. Jonathan Edward Ledford June 4, 2015 at 11:44 am

    As a 100% disabled Vietnam veterans and former Veteran Field Service Officer I hate to make negative comments. However the homeless program in North Georgia is none! I have complained many years and tried my best to help veterans but to no avail. I have tried to tell people that the people in Atlanta who get millions of dollars to help the homeless veterans have told me in the past if the homeless people come to Atlanta but they will not help them 100 miles away in the North Georgia Mountains. I even tried to see if I could find a way to open a homeless shelter through the VA and they basically said hell NO!
    The VA does a lot of good things but there are still many areas needing improvement. I lived and taught school in Atlanta before moving here and believe me when I attended Georgia State University they were homeless veterans everywhere in Atlanta!
    I am very sick now and lay in bed most of the time in a lot pain and mental issues with PTSD and TBI so I never leave home except to go to a doctor’s appointment. My knowledge of the current situation is very limited but I really doubt the numerous issues needing improvement has changed much. The only major change I know about is that the VAMC in Atlanta has improved dramatically but I can tell you from personal experience and talking to other veterans the CHOICE program needs major improvement in my opinion the old fee basis program was much more efficient.

    • frank June 6, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Mr Edward, thank you for your sharing of your experience…. It is OK Veterans know when someone is truly genuine and wants to help . thank you Our Country loves us and I am certain vets you tried to help appreciated your efforts and love and respect you just the same. Please stay with us and pray for us. Thank you.

  2. Rodney Lopez June 3, 2015 at 8:30 pm



  3. Hermon June 3, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    We recently had a Walk n Roll event here in Las Vegas. People were encouraged to donate things like personal care items (toothpaste, soaps etc.). The problem I have was there was NO mention of this event in the local media. There are plenty of people who want to help yet nothing was mentioned. I see other events mentioned on our local ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox stations but what about events that help the homeless veterans. I tried to donate items, but because I could not get off to participate in time for the Walk n Roll event it took me three emails messages to finally be able to donate those items. The people here need to make it easier for, veterans, staff members and the general public to donate items. It seems as if the people who put up these events here are just checking off their “Look what I’ve Done List”, when they really haven’t done enough.

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