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Rep. Ami Bera Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging Funding For Homeless Veterans

Yesterday, Congressman Ami Bera (CA-07) led 18 bipartisan members of Congress in a letter urging Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to ensure funding for a program that reduces homelessness among veterans. The program, known as HUD-VASH, serves homeless veterans and combines HUD rental vouchers with VA case management services, including health care and counseling. In Sacramento County, VASH vouchers helped fund Mather Veterans Village, a housing complex built for veterans and their families.

"The VASH voucher program is a critical service that Sacramento County veterans rely on," said Rep. Ami Bera. "Veterans have sacrificed for our country and we owe them all the support they need to live healthy, productive lives. This program has bipartisan support from across the country. Secretary Shulkin should ensure that HUD-VASH is properly funded and remove the uncertainty for our veterans still struggling to find a home."

"Congressman Bera is the ultimate champion when is comes to assisting all veterans, particularly homeless veterans in California," said Sacramento veterans advocate Don Harper. "Reducing the HUD-VASH program would be devestating for this community and others across the country. He always has our backs and as veterans, we have his back."

In December, Secretary Shulkin announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs would reallocate $460 million dollars from the program to local VA hospitals. Facing fierce opposition, the VA backtracked, halting their plans for several months to receive public input. This indecision left long-term funding for the program in limbo and increased uncertainty for homeless veterans.

As a doctor who has cared for veterans, Congressman Bera has seen firsthand how they have sacrificed for our country. Since taking office, Rep. Bera has helped return more than $2 million dollars in benefits and services to Sacramento County veterans.

A full text of the letter can be found below:

February 13, 2018

The Honorable David J. Shulkin, M.D.


Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary Shulkin,

We write to urge continued support and robust funding for the HUD-VASH program. As you continue your process of soliciting input on the program, we'd like to emphasize the importance of HUD-VASH program to veterans in our communities.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2017 report to Congress on Homelessness, veterans' homelessness rose by nearly 2 percent for the first time since 2010. Much of this was driven by increases in veterans' homelessness on the West Coast. California had the largest absolute increase in the number of its homeless veterans- there were nearly 1900 more homeless veterans in 2017 than in 2016. Meanwhile, the state of Washington had the largest percentage increase- 41% over the previous year. Oregon has the third highest rate of unsheltered veterans. These are the homeless literally on the street and lack access to safe, temporary housing.

Upon release of the report, HUD Secretary Carson noted that a lack of affordable housing, particularly on the West Coast, was "manifesting itself on our streets" in the form of homelessness. The VA has also noted the connection between a shortage of affordable housing, particularly in cities like Los Angeles and Seattle, and a corresponding rise in veterans' homelessness. As members whose districts face a dearth of affordable housing, and whose communities confront the homelessness that often results, we could not agree more.

While our communities work to address this crisis, we urge you to maintain and prioritize the VA's support for the HUD-VASH program. We have seen firsthand how pivotal these vouchers are. By combining rental vouchers with case management services that address healthcare, substance abuse, mental health and other issues for homeless veterans, the HUD-VASH program provides a sustainable path for keeping our veterans off the street. Since the program began in 2008, the vouchers have provided housing for 138,000 veterans.

But as our communities grapple with a continued lack of affordable housing, and as this year's increase in veterans' homelessness showed, our work is far from over.

Our nation's veterans sacrificed too much for us to turn our backs on them. The HUD-VASH's multipronged approach to addressing the root causes of homelessness offer a solution for at-risk veterans. We owe it to them to continue this critical program- and that is why we urge its continued support and prioritization at all levels of the VA this year and for many years to come.

Rep. Ami Bera, M.D.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard

Rep. Kurt Schrader

Rep. Adam Smith

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

Rep. Scott Peters

Rep. Jim Costa

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Denny Heck

Rep. John Garamendi

Rep. Jerry McNerney

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler

Rep. Dave Reichert

Rep. Rick Larsen

Rep. Suzan K. DelBene

Rep. Greg Walden