Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has dropped a previously announced plan that would have effectively ended a VA program to help homeless vets, following fast and furious protests from veterans' advocates.
On Dec. 1, the VA said it would end a $460 million program that has helped reduce homelessness among veterans, and instead allocate the money to local VA hospitals to use as needed. The VA made that decision without consulting veterans’ groups or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which partners with the VA on the program.
The plan was quickly and forcefully denounced by veterans groups and advocates, as well as HUD, and on Wednesday after POLITICO published a story about their opposition and concern, Shulkin backtracked and issued a press release, which stated: "There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless program." Further, Shulkin promised to get input from local VA leaders and others "on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most."
The announcement came after Shulkin and HUD Secretary Ben Carson appeared at a Washington shelter Nov. 27 to tout President Donald Trump's commitment to ending veteran homelessness. Shulkin's reversal also followed release on Wednesday by HUD of a survey showing a 1.5 percent increase in veteran homelessness over 2016 — the first rise since 2010.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of a veterans' affairs subcommittee, had called the earlier VA decision "a new low" for the Trump administration that was "especially callous and perplexing" in view of the latest data on homelessness. She and the 13 other members of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee had urged the VA to reconsider its decision.
According to HUD, there were nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, and even those with housing still need assistance. The program has served 138,000f displaced service members since 2010, and cut the number without housing on a given day by almost half. More than half the veterans housed are chronically ill, mentally ill or have substance abuse problems.
So, the Trump administration talks big about serving and honoring our veterans with a nice, heartwarming, touchy-feely photo op, and then just a couple of days later tries to cut the rug from under those very same veterans it purports to help.
How cynical can you get? Time to resist.