VA Homeless FAQs - VA Homeless Programs
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VA Homeless Programs

 

VA Homeless FAQs

What is the role of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in ending Veteran homelessness?

Ending Veteran homelessness is a top national priority for VA. In collaboration with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Labor, and other federal, state, local, and nonprofit partners, VA has undertaken an unprecedented campaign to make sure every Veteran has permanent housing. This campaign has led to great progress; according to results of the annual Point-in-Time Count, homelessness among Veterans decreased by 50 percent between 2010 and 2020. In addition, three states and more than 80 local areas have effectively ended homelessness among Veterans. Lastly, since 2010, more than 850,000 Veterans and their families have been permanently housed or prevented from becoming homeless.

How does VA define homelessness?

When delivering supportive services to Veterans and their families, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs providers are required by law to ensure Veterans meet certain eligibility criteria. To determine Veterans’ eligibility for homeless assistance, VA uses the definition of homelessness stated in The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as Amended by S. 896, The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009.

This legislation defines “homeless,” “homeless individual,” and “homeless person” as any of the following:

  • An individual or family without a full-time or adequate nighttime residence.
  • An individual or family with a full-time nighttime residence that is not intended to be a regular place for people to sleep, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground.
  • An individual or family living in a shelter (including a hotel or motel) designated as a temporary living arrangement.
  • An individual residing in a place not meant for human habitation or exiting an institution where they temporarily resided.
  • An individual or family who will imminently lose their housing, including housing they own, rent, or live in without paying rent or are sharing with others, as well as rooms in hotels or motels.
  • An individual or family who is fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in their current housing situation.
  • An unaccompanied youth and homeless families with children and youths.

Veterans who are experiencing homelessness or are at imminent risk of homelessness are strongly encouraged to contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838) for assistance.

Can you truly have zero unsheltered homeless Veterans at any given time? Won’t there still be Veterans who refuse housing?

Most people with acceptable options for permanent housing do not choose homelessness. Persuading some Veterans to move from the streets into housing takes time and persistent engagement by caring, trained professionals. Outreach workers across the country already know many of these Veterans and work to earn their trust. Thanks to their efforts and best practice approaches such as Housing First, the number of unsheltered Veterans is diminishing. Not every community will end Veteran homelessness at the same time, but we're not going to rest until every Veteran has a place to call home.

Can you truly have zero unsheltered homeless Veterans at any given time? Won’t there still be Veterans who refuse housing?

Even after we have ended homelessness among Veterans, some of them may experience a housing crisis and face the possibility of homelessness. We can prevent homelessness among Veterans by identifying those most at risk and quickly connecting them with programs that provide temporary financial assistance and access to housing solutions, health care, employment assistance, and other supportive services that can help them avoid homelessness.

How do you identify Veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless?

Through research and testing, VA has compiled a set of questions to ask Veterans to determine whether they are at risk of becoming homeless. VA medical center (VAMC) personnel ask these questions during their initial interaction with each Veteran. If the responses indicate potential risk factors, the Veteran is referred for appropriate services and assistance. Similarly, grantees of VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) use an evidence-based screening tool to identify high-risk Veteran families based on local conditions. A centralized, coordinated assessment now being rolled out in Continuum of Care (CoC) programs across the country considers the unique needs of homeless and at-risk Veterans and their households to match them to the most appropriate housing and services.

What services does VA offer Veterans in emergency shelters or transitional housing?

VA will continue to provide a variety of services through these programs, including physical and mental health care; intensive case management; and referrals to other social supports, such as legal, housing, and benefits assistance and employment services. All these services promote residential stability and help Veterans increase their skill levels and income and develop greater self-determination on their path to permanent housing. Community-based organizations funded by the CoC Program will also continue to provide shelter, transitional housing, and supportive services.

Will moving all homeless Veterans off the streets be “mission accomplished?”

No, but it will be a major triumph. Ending unsheltered homelessness is a moral imperative: Life on the streets puts Veterans’ health at risk and can lead to premature death. The day when no Veteran is living on the street will be a historic milestone in our service to Veterans, and we will celebrate that success as an important achievement.

Is there enough affordable permanent housing or permanent supportive housing to house all homeless Veterans?

A sufficient supply of affordable and permanent supportive housing is necessary to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. The prevalence of Veteran homelessness in communities with high rental costs suggests that there is not a sufficient supply of affordable housing in every community. Sufficient supply can be achieved only with full funding of VA’s programs at the requested levels and with the development of additional housing stock through the CoC Program, low-income housing tax credits, project-based vouchers through the HUD-VASH program, VA’s Enhanced-Use Lease Program, the funding of the National Housing Trust Fund, and local housing initiatives. 

Is ending Veteran homelessness possible in states with the highest incidence (e.g., California and Washington), especially since some areas have seen an increase in homelessness?

Progress to date demonstrates that when new resources are invested in proven solutions, and when existing programs adopt best practices, ending Veteran homelessness is possible.

How do VA and HUD serve Veterans who are not eligible to participate in VA’s homeless programs and services (such as those with a less than honorable discharge)?

CoCs must serve all people experiencing homelessness, including Veterans ineligible for VA homeless programs and services. Both VA and HUD encourage communities to make connections at the local level between CoCs and VA medical centers to identify and connect Veterans with housing and services offered by CoC-funded providers. Other federal agencies are involved, too, including the U.S. Department of Labor, which funds programs to connect Veterans with employment.

Accessing VA Services

What should I do if I know or encounter a Veteran who is homeless or at risk for homelessness?

Anyone can help connect a Veteran who is homeless or at risk of homelessness with VA care. If a Veteran you know is homeless, at imminent risk of becoming homeless, or in crisis, make the call to 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838) or chat online at va.gov/homeless.

What is the best way for Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to seek help at VA?

Make the call to 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838) or chat online at va.gov/homeless. Trained, supportive professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to connect Veterans with the care they need to get back on their feet.

What are the eligibility requirements for VA homeless programs?

Eligibility guidelines vary across programs. To learn more about a specific program, visit the VA Programs for Homeless Veterans page.

Can Veterans receive VA benefits while incarcerated?

VA can pay certain benefits to Veterans who are incarcerated in a Federal, State, or local penal institution; however, the amount VA can pay depends on the type of benefit and reason for incarceration. Visit VBA's page on Incarcerated Veterans for more information about the impacts of incarceration on specific types of VA benefits.

What benefits are available to justice-involved Veterans?

A history of justice involvement does not impact the benefits for which a Veteran otherwise qualifies. Veterans who are currently justice-involved may be eligible for VA benefits, such as disability compensatio n, disability pension, education and training, health care, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and burial. Visit the Veterans Justice Outreach Program page or  email the nearest VJO specialist for more information on the Veterans Justice Outreach program and available benefits.

How does a Veteran's incarceration impact his/her benefits?

VA cannot provide health care services to a Veteran while he or she is incarcerated. An eligible Veteran can access VA health care again immediately following his or her release. For disability compensation, VA reduces payments if a Veteran is convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days. For disability pension, VA discontinues payments, if a beneficiary is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor effective the 61st day of imprisonment in a Federal, State, or local penal institution. For education benefits, beneficiaries not incarcerated for a felony can receive full monthly benefits, if otherwise entitled. Convicted felons residing in halfway houses (also known as "residential re-entry centers") or participating in work-release programs can also receive full monthly benefits. Claimants incarcerated for a felony conviction can only be paid the costs of tuition, fees, and necessary books, equipment, and supplies. For distribution of benefits to spouse or children, VA can distribute all or part of the disability compensation not paid to an incarcerated Veteran to their spouse, child or children, and dependent parents on the basis of individual need. Veterans can contact their local regional benefits office, which can be found online, or by calling 1-800-827-1000.

How can dependents receive an allotment of an incarcerated Veteran's VA benefits?

VA will also notify the dependents of their right to an apportionment, if the VA is aware of their existence and can obtain their addresses. However, an apportionment of an incarcerated Veteran's VA benefits is not granted automatically to the Veteran's dependents. The dependent(s) must file a claim for an apportionment. Dependents can file a claim by visiting their local VA regional benefits office, which can be found online, or by calling 1-800-827-1000.

When will a formerly incarcerated Veteran's full benefits resume?

Veterans may inform VA to have their benefits resumed within 30 days or less of their anticipated release date based on evidence from a parole board or other official prison source showing the Veteran's scheduled release date. A beneficiaries' award for compensation or pension benefits shall be resumed the date of release from incarceration, if the VA receives notice of release within one year following release – otherwise it will be the date the VA receives notice. Depending on the type of disability, VA may schedule a medical examination to see if the disability has improved. For assistance, beneficiaries may visit their local VA regional benefits office, which can be found online, or call 1-800-827-1000.

Partnering With VA

What should I do if I have a house or apartment that I’d like to rent to a Veteran?

If you have a space you’d like to rent to a Veteran, consider participating in the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program — which has helped tens of thousands of Veterans and their families overcome the challenges of homelessness and lead independent lives. To learn about the benefits and steps to get started, check out our landlord fact sheet.

Does VA have funds available for organizations that want to build housing or provide supportive services for homeless Veterans?

VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD) awards grants to community-based agencies to create transitional housing programs and offer per diem payments to Veterans. The purpose is to promote the development and provision of supportive housing and services to help homeless Veterans achieve residential stability, increase their skill levels and income, and develop greater self-determination. You can read more on the GPD page.

How can individuals and organizations help prevent and end homelessness among Veterans?

VA has allocated unprecedented resources to ending Veteran homelessness, but we can’t do it alone. First responders, community service providers, faith groups, and Veterans service organizations provide a critical link between Veterans and the resources they may need to secure safe, stable housing. VA can connect the Veterans you encounter every day with a variety of services to get them back on their feet. Individuals can also help by spreading the word through personal networks, handing out materials, or supporting a “Stand Down” event to offer food, clothing, and health screenings to local Veterans. To find downloadable and print-ready items to share, visit our Get Involved page.

How does an agency apply for HCHV funding or Contract Residential Housing?

Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) provides funding to local VA medical centers (VAMCs), which contract with community-based agencies to provide short-term residential treatment for Veterans in need of immediate housing while they look for permanent housing and additional care and services. Another aspect of HCHV is the Contract Residential Treatment program, which places Veterans with serious mental health diagnoses into quality, community-based supportive housing. Entities can learn more about providing these services to homeless Veterans by contacting their local VAMC and speaking with the HCHV liaison or homeless services coordinator.

Additional Information

How do I find out more about VA’s programs for homeless Veterans?

To find additional information about VA’s many programs to end Veteran homelessness, check out the VA Homeless Veterans page. Additionally, you can stay up to date by reading the quarterly newsletter, webinars, and Facebook Live events hosted throughout the year.

Are there stories about Veterans who were homeless and helped by VA?

The official blog of VA, VAntage Point, has several inspirational stories of formally homeless Veterans who were helped by VA. To read their stories, visit the VAntage Point website. You can also visit the Success Stories page to read news of interest in the initiative to end and prevent Veteran homelessness.

How many homeless and at-risk Veterans have been helped by VA and its partners?

Since 2010, more than 850,000 Veterans and their family members have been permanently housed, rapidly rehoused, or prevented from falling into homelessness through HUD's targeted housing vouchers and VA's homelessness programs.

Can a Veteran upgrade his or her discharge?

Yes. A Veteran can be considered for a discharge upgrade for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Sexual Assault or harassment (Military Sexual Trauma)
  • Sexual orientation (Don't Ask, Don't Tell)
How can a Veteran apply for a discharge upgrade?

A Veteran can begin the process by using VA’s Upgrade Wizard which will require the Veteran to answer a series of questions. The tool will then provide customized, step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. If the application goes through and discharge is upgraded, the Veteran will be eligible for VA benefits earned during their period of service. Visit VA’s Upgrade Wizard and click the “Get started” button to begin.