Calls it “Unconscionable” 37,000 Veterans Remain Homeless

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today demanded answers from the two federal agencies after thousands of housing vouchers for homeless veterans went unused last year.

“It is completely unacceptable that our federal government is failing to make housing benefits available to our nation’s homeless veterans,” Buchanan said.

“I am calling on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to immediately rectify this problem and make sure veterans get the benefits they rightfully deserve.”

Buchanan’s inquiry comes after shocking testimony at a congressional hearing this month revealed that up to 14,000 housing vouchers went unused. Under the program jointly run by HUD and the VA, a voucher can provide a single homeless veteran with housing for a year or more.

If this problem is due to bureaucratic incompetence, then those responsible should be fired immediately. If there are other causes, then it needs to be resolved immediately. Congress appropriated these subsidies to help struggling veterans, not sit unused.

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.

Buchanan, who represents more than 88,000 veterans in Southwest Florida, has a strong record of fighting for veterans and military families. In 2019, Buchanan introduced the Veterans Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act, which requires the VA to study the link between addictive opioids and the alarmingly high rate of suicides among veterans.

With veteran suicide rates on the rise in 2018, Buchanan wrote to VA Secretary Wilkie and demanded to know why the VA spent less than one percent of the $6.2 million in funding made available for a veteran suicide prevention program.





The full text of the letter is below:


Congressman Vern Buchanan

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.



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