WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thousands of housing vouchers meant to help homeless veterans are not being used, according to testimony from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill.
The VA said there are more than 100,000 housing vouchers designated each year through the Department of Housing and Urban Development - Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) to help veterans in need of permanent housing but around 11,000 are not being used.
"This is too many unused vouchers,” Keith Harris with the VA Homeless Program Office said.
The VA points to rising rents in communities with a high number of housing vouchers as part of the problem as well as the more than 650 vacant case management positions.
"The VA recognizes the importance of hiring case managers and is committed to filling case manager vacancies,” Harris said.
The VA said it plans to fill many of the vacant positions and expects to house more than 6,000 additional veterans each year.
On any given night, it’s estimated there are around 37,000 veterans who are homeless in the U.S. currently.
"It's vitally important that our nation has an effective method to get them off the street,” U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA), Chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, said.
Organizations that help homeless veterans testified before the committee sharing personal stories of veterans struggling to find permanent housing.
"Somebody I'll call Mr. Brown,” Greg Anglea with Interfaith Community Services said. “Mr. Brown was discharged with an other than honorable discharge due to drug use in the military. That came at a time when he had not yet been diagnosed with a bi-polar condition. His condition is such that he really needs an ongoing housing subsidy.”
Even with the unused vouchers, the VA said the overall number of homeless veterans has gone down significantly, dropping 50 percent since 2010.
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