Homeless Veterans Committee
A More Difficult Year
BY SANDY MILLER, CHAIR
The Homeless Veterans Committee continues to work to end veteran homelessness. The final year of the VA’s five-year plan will challenge those who provide direct services to homeless veterans. Outreach will be more difficult, as those veterans who remain homeless are the hardest to place. They include the chronically homeless and those with severe medical and mental health issues.
Housing stabilization continues to be an issue and, to some degree, is being addressed through Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) programs across the country. SSVF has helped in rapid rehousing and keeping veterans stably housed. Recently a Senate bill was introduced that would establish a three-year pilot program to provide grants for furniture, household items, and other assistance to formerly homeless veterans moving into permanent housing. This bill would provide $5 million per year for the pilot program. The Homeless Veterans Committee supports the SSVF program and this new legislation that will enhance access to items not eligible for purchase under SSVF.
The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans recently was audited by the Office of the Inspector General. The audit revealed that homeless veterans calling the number often experience problems getting access to a counselor or receiving a referral after completing the intake process. Of the estimated 79,500 homeless veterans who contacted the Call Center in FY13, fewer than 21,200 (27 percent) were able only to leave messages and almost 13,000 (16 percent) could not be referred to VA medical facilities due to voice messages being inaudible or lacking contact information.
Those veterans referred to VA facilities did not always receive the services they needed because the Call Center for Homeless Veterans did not do any follow up. Of the approximately 51,500 referrals, the Call Center provided no feedback or improvements to ensure the quality of homeless services; 85 percent of the reviewed records lacked documentation to prove a veteran received the necessary support services; and 78 percent were missed opportunities for providing help to homeless veterans.
The OIG recommended that the VA’s Interim Under Secretary for Health stop the use of the answering machines, implement effective Call Center performance measures, and establish controls to ensure the proper use of Call Center special-purpose funds. The VVA Homeless Veterans Committee fully supports the recommendation of the OIG report.
Homeless Veterans Committee Report, September/October 2014
Planning A Stand Down
Another Leadership & Education Conference has passed. This year the committee’s presentation was on planning a stand down, as well as an update on the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem issues, HUD-VASH, and the status of the five-year plan to end chronic veteran homelessness. The latest list of 967 new vouchers was released just two days before the presentation; copies of the list were provided to attendees.
Our presentation on how to do a stand down included two three-dimensional display boards on variations of how to set up a stand down field. Additionally, we discussed how to get outside involvement, donations, and contributions from the community. All participants were fully engaged, and ideas and suggestions were plentiful.
Chapters and state councils that want to do a stand down should go towww.vva.org and download the “How To Do a Stand Down” guide. It is full of valuable information.
The committee continues to work on the grant and per diem payment process. Most recently we began to look at the “fees” providers are permitted to charge program residents. The committee is still waiting for a report on this issue that was due to Congress in June 2013. As of now, it has not been completed.
The chair attended the National Coalition on Homeless Veterans annual conference. The focus was on housing and the development of supported permanent housing. SSVF has served well in addressing the permanent housing needs of our homeless veterans.
The chair also went to the VA Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans meeting in September in San Antonio, Texas. The focus was on the five-year plan to end chronic veteran homelessness. The Advisory Committee met with newly appointed Federal Designated Employee Lisa Pape in July.
Senate Unanimously Passes Bill to Reauthorize, Improve Critical Homeless Veteran Programs
WASHINGTON – On July 18, 2012, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed H.R. 1627, the "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012." This bill addresses several areas of concern for veterans, including health care, housing, education and benefits. Notably, the bill would reauthorize and improve several homeless veteran programs that are critical to the success of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)'s Five-Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness.
The "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012" represents a comprehensive agreement between both parties in both the U.S. House and the Senate. NCHV's most recent Congressional Leadership Award recipients – Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs – were at the center of this compromise.
Veterans Affairs Combat Call Center