Veteran Homelessness

Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s pledge to end homelessness by 2014 is quite a daunting task.  Measures such as the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009, shows that there is a prevailing desire to actually “end” homelessness among our nations Veterans.   Although this bill was introduced on August 5, 2009 to Congress, it was not enacted it into law.[1]

Shinseki hopes that Veterans Administration (VA) Regional Offices can work strategically to decrease pending homeless veteran claims.  However, the VA has constantly struggled to effectively handle multiple nationally recognized and priority projects with stringent deadlines and production goals from our nation’s diplomatic leaders.  For instance, VA’s Disability Evaluation System (DES) Pilot Program has seen the number of discharged veterans within the program drastically increase due to the military’s efforts to downsize.  As such, many VA Regional Offices have utilized their rating veterans service representatives (RVSRs) staff to work solely and exclusively on the DES project alone, leaving minimal manpower to work on homeless veteran claims or projects.

To subsidize over worked RVSRs, VA Regional Offices have Local Homeless Coordinators to ambitiously collaborate with local nonprofit and community organizations to educate individuals on resources for homeless veterans.  However, they may not be equipped to process the claims and many have questioned whether this is enough.

It must be noted that the VA efforts must not be fully downplayed or discarded.  The VA and the Housing Urban Development have collaborated on programs to assist in its efforts to elevate homelessness amongst our nations’ veterans.[2]  However, there is still more that can be done within the legal community itself.

Although nonprofits such as the Northwest Justice Project and Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program have a longstanding history of providing such legal assistance to veterans, there is still a major need for the legal community to assist in the efforts to assist homeless veterans either by volunteering to take appeals cases or educating their local community.

[1] S.1547 (111th): Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009, Bill Text at [hereinafter Zero Tolerance].

[2] U.S. Government Accountability Office, VA and HUD Are Working to Improve Data on Supportive Housing Program, June 26, 2012, [hereinafter GOA].