The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans submitted a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie urging the VA to release funds and provide guidance to programs serving homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. NCHV members report that the delay of specified guidance and funding distribution puts homeless service providers in the impossible position of making life or death decisions, based on insufficient resource availability for veterans experiencing homelessness. To remedy this problem NCHV has called on the VA to:
Distribute the appropriated funding for HCHV (Healthcare for Homeless Veterans) and SSVF (Supportive Services for Veterans and Families), so that programs can rapidly scale isolation capacity on a contract or individual basis in communities that need it.
Use the authority given by the CARES Act to waive per diem reimbursement payable to GPD grantees and immediately issue national guidance increasing the per diem rate for grantees, retroactive to the beginning of this pandemic.
Encourage VAMC staff to prioritize or temporarily waive their inspection for use, especially in communities that have not yet scaled the use of isolated housing options for all unsheltered individuals.
Use additional funds to enhance VAMC homeless outreach capacity via HCHV training, testing and enhanced surveillance in places where veterans may be unwilling or unable to access health care and to equip staff doing this work with personal protective equipment.
Collaborate with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to identify ways to efficiently operate Public Housing Authorities, while maintaining staff safety (Over 50 PHAs have slowed or shut down their operations due the coronavirus.)
Temporarily relax the targeting standards around homelessness prevention in the SSVF programs in order to give programs the room to serve the anticipated increase in housing security due to the reduced pay/ unemployment caused by the effect of the pandemic on the economy.
Use authority granted by section 1784 of Title 38, U.S.C, that allows for the VA, during a pandemic, to provide health care to all veterans experiencing homelessness, regardless of discharge, status (Approximately 15% of veterans experiencing homelessness have other-than-honorable discharges, and in some urban communities that percentage rises as high as 30%.)
Identify any racial disparities that may exist in the identification and treatment of the coronavirus. African American and Indigenous American veterans are far more likely to experience homelessness and have the underlying diagnoses that increase their likelihood of morbidity due to COVID-19.
NCHV urges VA to act swiftly to help the nation’s veterans experiencing and at-risk of homelessness.