Homelessness amongst veterans has declined an estimated 18 percent over the last two years leaving VA Secretary, Eric Shinseki, hopeful of ending veteran homelessness within five years – a pledge he made last year.
At the National Forum on Homelessness Amongst Veterans, Shinseki stated that the current number of estimated homeless veterans is down 250,000 demonstrating that this “national shame” can be combated through the coordination of government programs. During the forum, Shinseki and other officials from the Obama administration discussed inter-agency cooperation with multiple directors of various homeless programs.
“We need to do more together, and we need to do things faster, better and smarter,” declared Shinseki. “We are in a tough fight. I know it, you know it.”
The VA boasts 152 medical centers and 57 regional benefits offices leading Shinseki to be certain that the VA is “structured, poised and capable” of both preventing future and combating current homelessness.
In 2010, the VA allocated $3.5 billion to homeless programs, and has asked for a budget increase of $4.2 billion for 2011. A predominate amount of the budget, 85 percent, will be used towards health care.
Shinseki believes that in order to prevent homelessness, medical care and mental health services are highly important. Both aggressive diagnosis and treatment for mental health issues are a part of the VA’s future plans.
“I believe that the costs of prevention are, over time, far less than the costs of caring for those who have slipping in to the ranks of the chronically homeless,” he stated.
“There is reason for optimism,” said Shinseki noting the VA current progress. Since its inception in March, a national homeless call center has received 13,000 calls. Permanent housing has also been provided to 18,000 veterans and the families of veterans through the VA and Housing of Urban Development Department programs. Over 29,000 homeless veterans have submitted paperwork for disability compensation, and an additional 3,000 have entered long-term nursing care facilities for veterans.
Photo thanks to DieselDemon under creative common license on Flickr.