Just a few days after patting himself on the back for committing to housing all of America’s homeless veterans, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin reportedly told advocates and officials that the funding for the program which would carry out that mission was being reallocated.
According to Politico, which first reported the program’s effective termination, Shulkin said on a phone call that the $460 million in funding would be reallocated to VA hospitals:
Anger exploded on a Dec. 1 call that was arranged by Shulkin’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans to explain the move. Advocates for veterans, state officials and even officials from HUD, which co-sponsors the program, attacked the decision, according to five people who were on the call.
Given that both Shulkin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson gave a joint press conference outside of a homeless shelter touting their commitment to veterans just a week before the call, their anger is entirely understandable. On top of losing funding for a much-needed program—HUD estimated there were 39,471 homeless vets in January of last year—both departments did exactly the opposite of what they promised.
The $460 million was originally set aside for a voucher program that provides long-term housing for former service members. Shulkin denied that the VA was abandoning homeless veterans in a statement released on Wednesday. Instead, he said, the VA would ask local VA leaders for their input “on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funding.”
Elisha Harig-Blaine, an activist who leads the nonprofit National League of Cities, was on Shulkin’s call and described his decision as “unconscionable.” Many of the veterans who depend on the program’s vouchers, she said, will “most likely” die on the streets.
Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat representing Washington, told Politco that the VA’s decision was “especially callous” and “a new low” for the Trump administration.