BY SANDY MILLER, CHAIR
The Homeless Veterans Committee continues to work to end veteran homelessness. The final year of the VA’s five-year plan will challenge those who provide direct services to homeless veterans. Outreach will be more difficult, as those veterans who remain homeless are the hardest to place. They include the chronically homeless and those with severe medical and mental health issues.
Housing stabilization continues to be an issue and, to some degree, is being addressed through Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) programs across the country. SSVF has helped in rapid rehousing and keeping veterans stably housed. Recently a Senate bill was introduced that would establish a three-year pilot program to provide grants for furniture, household items, and other assistance to formerly homeless veterans moving into permanent housing. This bill would provide $5 million per year for the pilot program. The Homeless Veterans Committee supports the SSVF program and this new legislation that will enhance access to items not eligible for purchase under SSVF.
The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans recently was audited by the Office of the Inspector General. The audit revealed that homeless veterans calling the number often experience problems getting access to a counselor or receiving a referral after completing the intake process. Of the estimated 79, 500 homeless veterans who contacted the Call Center in FY13, fewer than 21, 200 (27 percent) were able only to leave messages and almost 13, 000 (16 percent) could not be referred to VA medical facilities due to voice messages being inaudible or lacking contact information.
Those veterans referred to VA facilities did not always receive the services they needed because the Call Center for Homeless Veterans did not do any follow up. Of the approximately 51, 500 referrals, the Call Center provided no feedback or improvements to ensure the quality of homeless services; 85 percent of the reviewed records lacked documentation to prove a veteran received the necessary support services; and 78 percent were missed opportunities for providing help to homeless veterans.
The OIG recommended that the VA’s Interim Under Secretary for Health stop the use of the answering machines, implement effective Call Center performance measures, and establish controls to ensure the proper use of Call Center special-purpose funds. The VVA Homeless Veterans Committee fully supports the recommendation of the OIG report.