U.S. Reps. Ted W. Lieu and Brad Sherman have issued a letter the Honorable Marcia L. Fudge, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to change its policy on counting service-connected disability benefits as income so that homeless disabled veterans can access housing.
Reps. Lieu and Sherman are requesting that Secretary Fudge make changes to HUD’s current policy on income thresholds because the policy counts service-related disability benefits as income, which can then disqualify disabled servicemembers from veterans housing vouchers. Effectively, because of this HUD policy, the more disabled a veteran is, the less likely it is that they can access permanent supportive housing, including the West LA VA veteran housing that Reps. Lieu and Sherman have championed.
As the letter states, the West LA VA campus is one of the largest facilities operated by the VA, providing medical care and support services to over 86,000 veterans living in five counties in Central and Southern California (home to one of the largest concentrations of military veterans in the nation). The Southern California region also has one of the largest populations of homeless veterans, with a no fewer than 3,000 veterans being unhoused in Los Angeles County alone.
As part of the VA’s commitment to ending U.S. veteran homelessness, VA Secretary Denis McDonough released Master Plan (MP) 2022 on April 22, 2022, building on the Draft Master Plan of 2016. Veterans and members of local communities provided input in the process of developing both the Draft Master Plan and Master Plan 2022 through discussion at multiple public town hall meetings, surveys, and written public comments.
The Master Plan calls for at least 1,200 units of housing to be developed at the West LA VA Medical Center. Housing units are being constructed via the Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) authority, which allows VA to lease underutilized land to private developers, who in turn secure financing and ultimately construct and manage housing developments on campus.
“We ask that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) consider a definition change that would eliminate service-connected disability benefits only when qualifying a disabled veteran for a HUD-VASH voucher thus allowing them to live in permanent supportive housing and get the services they so desperately need,” said the letter. “The veteran’s benefits could continue to be counted when determining their fair share of the rent.”
Click here to view the letter from Reps. Lieu and Sherman to HUD Secretary Fudge.