Four years ago, the VA imposed on itself a lofty deadline to end veteran homelessness by 2015. While progress has definitely been made, 20,000 impoverished people off the streets in the last four years, the question remains as to whether that goal can be attained.
John Driscoll, president of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans said,
Programs are headed in the right direction… [b]ut were only beginning to see what the real demand for services will be for the younger veterans. I think 2015 was an ambitious goal… and we may need to recalibrate how long we’ll be in that rescue mission.
When the VA set its deadline in 2010, the number of homeless veterans across the country was 76,329. As of January 2013 it was down about 25% to 57,849 according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of the key impediments to reaching the goal is our economy. When the VA made its proclamation, it anticipated that the economy would reverse its fortunes faster than it has. Instead, such has not been the case and job growth has stalled.
In fiscal 2013 alone, the VA spent approximately $1.3 billion on their homeless programs. This includes expanding the number of grants and subsidies to outside organizations combating the problem. Additionally, there are 37 former homeless veterans that have gone through a National Cemetery Administration apprenticeship program that was designed to provide a path to stable employment.
The VA did not have to set a deadline for itself to eradicate veteran homelessness. But it did. Whether it can reach the goal by 2015 remains to be seen. But even if it cannot, the efforts must be applauded.
Financial Help for Homeless Vets
One of the many situations vets face leading to homelessness and financial troubles is waiting for VA disability compensation benefits — or not knowing how to file for benefits or for an appeal after benefits are denied. Many states offer interim help through programs such as the Military Family Relief Fund in Indiana. Sometimes a veterans disability advocates can help as well, for example by filing a Petition for Extraordinary Relief at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Please contact our veterans disability advocate if you are facing financial hardship while waiting for a decision on your benefits. Not a single veteran should be homeless.