President Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs has reversed course on its plan to slash funding for a key program that helps provide housing to homeless vets just hours after a report surfaced revealing the controversial plan which sparked a massive public outcry.
A day earlier, the VA said it was ending a special $460 million program that has been credited with dramatically reducing homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans.
VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a statement on Thursday that “there will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” and the department “will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.”
Shulkin also said that over the next six months he will “solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most.”
“Based on that input we will come forward with proposals for fiscal year 2019 on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funding,” he added.
Advocates for veterans, state officials and HUD officials, which co-sponsors the program, attacked the VA’s initial decision to gut the program, Politico reported.
“I don’t understand why you are pulling the rug out,” Elisha Harig-Blaine, a National League of Cities housing official. “You’re putting at risk the lives of men and women who’ve served this country.”
“The VA is taking its foot off the pedal,” said Leon Winston, an executive at Swords to Plowshares.
The Hill notes:
The program provides housing vouchers to veterans via the Department of Housing and Urban Development while the VA continues helping veterans find more permanent housing.
More than half of the veterans housed via the program have problems like chronic illness or substance abuse, according to Politico.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told Politico that the decision was a “new low” for President Trump’s administration that was “especially callous and perplexing” in view of the latest data on homelessness.