FY 2013 Budget Keeps America on Track to End Veteran Homelessness by 2015
This time last year, Congress had two annual budgets to worry about— the final appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2011 weren’t completed until mid-April 2011. This year, however, Congress can focus exclusively on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year: FY 2013, which begins on Oct. 1, 2012.
The Obama Administration released its FY 2013 Budget on Feb. 13, 2012. With a 200% increase in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki is sending a message that his department is committed to not only ending veteran homelessness, but also preventing it.
In June 2011, Secretary Shinseki told attendees at the NCHV Annual Conference: “Our plan today emphasizes rescue and prevention because it must. In time, the plan must transition primarily to prevention.” If funded at the requested level, the SSVF Program – which is the only national, veteran-specific program available to help at-risk men and women veterans from ever becoming homeless – would rival the Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program and HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program in size.
Here is how four key homeless veteran programs fared in the President’s FY 2013 Budget:
GPD Program, VA
$11 million increase over FY 2012
SSVF Program, VA
$200 million increase over FY 2012
HUD-VASH Program, HUD and VA
$75 million in new housing vouchers (HUD)
$43 million in additional case management (VA)
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), DOL
No increase over FY 2012
Overall, the Department of Veterans Affairs would spend $1.352 billion on programs that would directly help prevent and end veteran homelessness— a 33% increase over the previous fiscal year. Advance appropriations for FY 2014 would ensure uninterrupted support for these programs, authorizations permitting.
Beyond the figures themselves, these and other homeless veteran programs would be affected in a number of different ways by the President’s FY 2013 Budget. Here is some further insight on each program’s prospects:
Grant and Per Diem Program
The FY 2013 request for the transitional housing program – which has been the foundation of community-based homeless veterans assistance for nearly two decades – is $85 million above the FY 2011 funding level and $11 million above last year’s level. It has been years, however, since VA has released a NOFA for the GPD Program, excluding Special Needs grants.
The ramp-up of the GPD Program correlates with the department’s intention to incorporate a “Transition in Place” model toward permanent housing. The President’s FY 2013 Budget includes a legislative proposal to authorize per diem payments for this activity of 150% of the current per diem rate ($38.90 per day per veteran housed). Entities receiving per diem to execute Transition in Place would be required to replace each VA-funded transitional housing bed converted to permanent housing.
This means that the addition of a permanent bed through Transition in Place would not diminish the overall number of transitional beds offered by the GPD Program, which currently number about 14,000.
Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program
Modeled after HUD’s highly successful Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), the SSVF Program serves low-income veterans and their families residing in or transitioning to permanent housing. Unlike the one-time infusion of HPRP funds, however, SSVF funds do not marginalize veterans: In HPRP’s first year, 2% of adults served were veterans, even though veterans accounted for 16% of the overall adult homeless population in 2009.
The SSVF Program is critical because it serves an at-risk veteran population that is ten times larger than the homeless veteran cohort, yet has no other dedicated funding source for the homelessness prevention services it needs. By funding the program at $300 million in FY 2013, and maintaining this level through the maturity of VA’s Five-Year Plan to End Homelessness among Veterans, there will be an effective system in place to stem the descent into homelessness for veterans and their families.
HUD-VA Supportive Housing Program
If signed into law, the President’s FY 2013 Budget would fund another round of 10,000 HUD-VASH housing vouchers, bringing the total to approximately 58,500. NCHV continues to stress the importance of correctly targeting these vouchers to chronically homeless veterans. It’s the program’s focus on housing the most vulnerable and difficult-to-serve veterans that will enable communities to effectively end veteran homelessness.
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program
By guaranteeing job placement and retention services for homeless veterans, HVRP plays a critical role in ending veteran homelessness by 2015. For years, the program has failed to be funded at its full authorization level of $50 million. While an investment of $38.185 million, as the President’s FY 2013 Budget requests, is laudable, NCHV does not believe this is sufficient to meet the growing need for this type of assistance.
Department of Labor-Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) Acting Assistant Secretary Ismael “Junior” Ortiz has stated that an estimated 10-12 new HVRP grants would be available for FY 2013 under the proposed budget.
Special Need Grants for Homeless Veterans Service Providers
The authorization for this program is currently set to expire at the end of FY 2012. VA has not requested for the program to be reauthorized in its FY 2013 legislative proposals.
Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program (VWIP)
DOL-VETS has not requested any funding for this program in FY 2013. In its budget proposal, the agency states:
“Over the past five years the VWIP cost per placement of a participant into employment has continuously grown to a cost of over $4,700 per placement in Program Year 2010, which ended on June 30, 2011. ... Because of the relatively small number of veterans served and the increasingly high cost of the VWIP program, VETS believes that funds for this program are better directed to programs with stronger accountability measures, including the implementation of new veteran training activities mandated in Pub. Law 112-56 (VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011).”