A federal housing program that assists homeless veterans is all but getting axed by the Trump administration, just days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin boasted of the administration's promise to house all displaced veterans. The program has been credited with dramatically reducing the number of homeless veterans.
The VA said it was essentially ending a special $460 million program that has dramatically reduced homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans. Instead, the money would go to local VA hospitals that can use it as they like, as long as they show evidence of dealing with homelessness.
The move follows a recent report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development showing an increase in the U.S. homeless population for the first time in seven years - with an increase among veterans up 1.5 percent over 2016.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who sits on a veterans' affairs subcommittee, called the VA decision "a new low" for the Trump administration that was "especially callous and perplexing" in view of the latest data on homelessness.
Shulkin insisted the move is not going to cut funding for homeless veterans overall and that he will get input "on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most," but the program has seen much success as is:
HUD data show there were nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, and even those with housing still need assistance. The program has reduced the number of displaced service members, serving 138,000 since 2010 and cut the number without housing on a given day by almost half. More than half the veterans housed are chronically ill, mentally ill or have substance abuse problems.
All 14 members of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee, including Murray, asked the VA to reconsider its decision, but apparently the letter had no effect.