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Progress made on veterans' homelessness since 2010, much more is needed

Lawmakers told of unused housing vouchers, vets unable to access V.A. health care, and the V.A. not having enough caseworkers.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Much progress has been made in the fight to end veteran homelessness.

According to testimony, veterans' homelessness has declined 50 percent since 2010.

Still, House lawmakers heard on Tuesday that there are lingering problems for the federal agencies trying to eradicate the problem once and for all.

"A great deal of progress has been made in the way we address veteran homelessness, however, we acknowledge there is still a lot of work to be done," said Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Hunter Kurtz.

Last year, about 8 percent of homeless people across the country were vets.

There are 37,085 homeless veterans in America, according to the HUD's 2019 "Point in Time" count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January.

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"I hope that we all agree on this. I believe we do, it's that simple premise that even one homeless veteran is one too many," said Rep. Mike Levin (D-California).

Among the problems spelled out at Tuesday's House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing, the fact that the Department of Veterans Affairs is currently facing a 16 percent vacancy rate for staff case management positions.

"V.A. remains fully committed to the goal of preventing and ending veteran homelessness," said Keith Harris, director of the V.A. Homelessness Program

Additionally, it was revealed that 14,000 housing vouchers for vets went unused last year.

Finally, there are the 7,700 veterans who receive "other than honorable" discharges every year.

62 percent of them suffered some traumatic brain injury while in service.

Yet, because of the nature of their discharge, many are ineligible to receive the medical help they need from the V.A.

"To not provide these veterans who have served our country, who are discharged with disabling conditions shortly thereafter with access to health care, is a mistake that must be rectified," said Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services.

There is good news.

On Monday, the House passed the Veteran House Act, which aims to expand eligibility for the low-rent "HUD -VASH" program; that expansion includes vets with "other-than-honorable" discharges.