The year 2015 could bring about some momentous changes for veterans.
First, it is the year that the Department of Veterans Affairs set as the deadline for ending veteran homelessness according to a 5-year plan adopted in 2009.
“As that deadline fast approaches, I’m pleased to report that the VA has succeeded in reducing veteran homelessness by approximately 33 percent,” said US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL).
Miller is troubled by a VA Inspector General’s audit issued December 3, 2014 that found that the VA National Call Center for Homeless Veterans failed to help more than 40,000 callers.
These missed opportunities occurred due to lapses in the Call Center’s management and oversight. The Call Center relied on answering machine technology, instead of counselors, to ensure continuous telephone coverage. (page 3)
“I think you’ll agree this is unacceptable for any government program, but particularly a population that’s as vulnerable as this one is - a population that for some the ability to even make a phone call is a logistical challenge,” Miller stated during the opening committee hearing.
Miller also questioned the need for the roughly 20 different VA programs aimed at getting veterans off the street and into housing.
The executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Baylee Crone, offered an explanation for the range of veterans homeless programs.
“The full picture is complicated,” Crone testified before the committee. “Ending veteran homelessness starts with the veteran and people are complicated. Some individuals with complex needs profiles will be served by several programs. This does not mean that the services are being duplicated but rather the organizations and programs are working together to address specific barriers to permanent housing.”
Veteran suicide is another topic tackled by the House of Representatives which passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act in early December.
The bipartisan legislation increased veteran access to mental health care while requiring annual reviews of program effectiveness.
But the bill was killed in the Senate by retiring, US Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma.
Veteran organizations are hoping the bill will reemerge in 2015.
And this is also the year when new VA Secretary Bob McDonald hopes to regain the trust of veterans after the crisis of confidence over delayed health care and backlogged claims at several VA facilities.
A January 1st VA blog posted this article, “21 Reasons Why the VA Is Headed in the Right Direction,” with links to videos and documents detailing McDonald’s reorganization plans.