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Rep. Vern Buchanan's Letter To HUD and VA

Dear Secretaries Carson and Wilkie,

I am writing to you today in the wake of disturbing revelations which exposed systematic failures by the federal government to make essential housing benefits available to thousands of our nation’s homeless veterans. 

As I’m sure you would agree, it is unconscionable that there are an estimated 37,000 homeless veterans sleeping on streets all across America daily. However, as we learned from a recent congressional hearing, much of this could be prevented as the federal government has failed to award as many as 14,000 potentially life-saving housing vouchers to deserving veterans.

This is completely unacceptable and unbefitting to the brave men and women of our armed forces who served our country.

Homeless veterans often call these vouchers “golden tickets” because they provide not only temporary shelter and reliable rent payments, but other critical support services. The joint program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also provides job training, health care and mental health services.

We also learned that the VA has failed to fill more than 650 case management positions whose responsibility is to identify and work with veterans eligible for housing vouchers. According to witness testimony at the hearing, if these positions were filled, an additional 6,000 eligible veterans could get placed in subsidized housing. If this personnel management objective were achieved, it would represent an almost 20 percent reduction in the population of 37,000 homeless veterans living in the United States.

These revelations paint the picture of a broken system that is disturbingly reminiscent of the VA’s failure to spend millions in suicide prevention funds for veterans in 2018. At that time, it was discovered that the VA had spent less than one percent of the $6.2 million in funding made available by Congress for the VA’s suicide prevention outreach program.

That is why I am requesting a detailed explanation of these failures and the steps your agencies will take to promptly rectify them. Specifically, I would like to know what concrete steps you are taking to immediately fill these important case management positions, how you plan to clear this unacceptable backlog of unused housing vouchers and what other actions can be taken to help meet the goal of the ensuring that no veteran who served our nation has to spend another night without a roof over their head.

I look forward to your prompt response on this critical matter.