Flexible Assistance for Homeless Veterans
Section 4201(a) of the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 (PL 116-315) authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to use appropriated funds for life-saving food, shelter, goods, and services for homeless Veterans or those participating in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program during the Coronavirus pandemic public health emergencies. In December 2021, VA sent a total of $20 million in American Rescue Plan funds to VA Medical Centers across the country to maximize the number of Veterans assisted under this authority.
By providing essential food, shelter, goods, and services, the Veterans Health Care and Benefits Act of 2020 aims to minimize the risk of harmful outcomes to Veterans such as loss of housing or continuation of homelessness, hunger, hypothermia, poor hygiene, unemployment, missed health care and service appointments, social isolation, exacerbation of physical and mental health symptoms, or contracting or spreading COVID-19.
Examples of eligible expenditures include (but are not limited to):
- Food (meals, groceries, meal delivery services)
- Personal items (clothing, blankets, personal protective equipment, hygiene items)
- Household goods (apartment start-up kits, small household appliances, furniture, cookware, cleaning supplies)
- Shelter (hotel/motel vouchers, rental deposits, rental payments, utilities, childcare, application and document fees, pet fees, laundry vouchers, mobile housing units, legal fees related to maintaining housing)
- Transportation (taxi vouchers, public transportation vouchers, rideshare vouchers, chartered transportation services)
- Communications equipment and services (smartphones, disposable phones, tablets, service plans, Wi-Fi utility payments, cell phone boosters)
For this time-limited authority, VA Medical Centers are required to promote equitable access to these life-saving resources. This means ensuring funding is made available to historically underserved Veterans, including women, racial and ethnic minority Veterans and those in rural areas and on tribal lands.
Impact to Date
From May 2021 through May 2022, VA Medical Centers across the United States have directly helped over 25,000 Veterans using over $2.6 million in funding through the expanded flexibilities authorized by the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, MD Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act. VA Medical Centers have purchased groceries, meals, apartment start-up kits, furniture, Goodwill merchandise vouchers, and laundry vouchers for Veterans experiencing homelessness.
In addition, this guidance has allowed for the creation of a nationally coordinated rideshare program, which provides support to Veterans who need transportation to meet health, housing, legal, and employment needs. As of May 2022, this service has provided over 117,000 rides to over 23,600 Veterans at a value of over $4.4 million.
Check out these stories of Veterans who have benefited from Section 4201 on VAntage Point:
- Veteran helps family through disaster, discovers HUD-VASH program to get him back on his feet
- VA helps Army Veteran find stable housing, medical care
- Veteran Ivan Dickerson advises other Vets: "Do the right thing, seek help."
- HUD-VASH team helps Marine Veteran Mathew Robie find a home after a fire
- VA supports Marine Veteran through health issues and homelessness
- A VA skeptic finds support through homeless program
- VA homeless programs enable bright future for Army Veteran
- VA provides hope to Navy Veteran who was facing homelessness
Veterans experiencing homelessness should visit their local VA Medical Center for assistance and to take advantage of the support made possible by this authorization. These life-saving services are available to eligible Veterans who are homeless or those participating in the HUD-VASH program. To find a VA Medical Center near you, visit www.va.gov/find-locations. For immediate assistance, contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET (877-424-3838).