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Mythbusters: Using HUD-VASH to house homeless Veterans

June 14, 2016

Ending veteran homelessness is serious work. It requires knowing every veteran experiencing homelessness in a community by name, a streamlined and coordinated system to connect these veterans with housing, and the necessary housing resources to ensure that every veteran in need has a place to call home.

To help meet this resource need, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made a large push to connect veterans in need with HUD-VASH vouchers as part of the coordinated national effort to end veteran homelessness. These vouchers combine rental assistance for veterans experiencing homelessness with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.

Thanks to the effort from the VA to help communities meet the resource needs, many communities are now focusing on shortening the time between when a HUD-VASH voucher is issued to the veteran and the veteran moves into housing.

To aid communities in this process, we’d like to dispel seven common misconceptions about HUD-VASH:

Myth #1

Veterans must have income.  

Truth: While there is a cap on how much income a veteran can have, there is not a minimum amount of income. Any minimum income requirement is locally determined and not a requirement of HUD-VASH. While a Veteran can be housed in HUD-VASH with no income, living long term without resources is difficult; therefore we recommend that case managers and veterans begin immediately working to obtain income.   

Myth #2

Veterans must be sober or “ready” for housing.

Truth: There are no requirements for veterans to demonstrate they are clean and sober for any length of time prior to admission to HUD-VASH. The veteran must agree to participate in case management services tailored to meet his or her needs. The veteran will be required to follow the PHA and landlord’s rules, which may have a requirement for no drug or alcohol use, but there is no set period of sobriety to qualify for HUD-VASH. It is not the role of the case manager to enforce PHA and landlord rules, but rather to work with the veteran to understand the consequences of violating tenant rules. VA case managers are not cops!

Myth #3

Veterans cannot have been convicted of a felony and cannot be mandated to register as lifetime sex offenders.

Truth: While it is true that a veteran cannot receive HUD-VASH if they are required to register as a lifetime sex offender (the offenses which require registration vary from state to state), that is the ONLY criminal background exclusion. Securing housing with other criminal offenses may create other housing barriers for veterans, such as landlords that do criminal background checks and will not rent to those with criminal offenses on their record, but their criminal histories do not exclude the veterans from participation in HUD-VASH.

Myth #4

Veterans must have a birth certificate and social security card to complete the identification requirements for the housing application.

Truth: HUD only requires that the veteran submit a valid federal form with the social security number annotated. Some Housing Authorities accept a VA issued picture ID along with the DD214 (which includes the social security number) as an acceptable form of identification, but a social security card and/or birth certificate are not required.

Myth #5

Veterans must go through treatment prior to entering HUD-VASH.  

Truth: Prior treatment completion is NOT a requirement to participate in HUD-VASH. Veterans must simply be stable enough to participate in the voucher program (i.e.: not a threat to self or others.)  The case manager works with the veteran on housing stability, which will include discussions around barriers to sustaining housing and treatment options available to help address those barriers. The veteran drives the case management goals and agrees to the options that he/she feels will help him/her to sustain permanent housing.

Myth #6

Veterans in transitional housing longer than 90 days are no longer eligible for HUD-VASH.  

Truth: Although veterans who are in transitional housing for longer than 90 days are no longer considered “chronically homeless” by the HEARTH Act definition, they are still eligible for the HUD-VASH program if they meet the criteria, that is: have high vulnerability and need case management services to successfully sustain permanent housing. Case Managers should begin work toward permanent housing with veterans who are appropriate for HUD-VASH as soon as possible in their transitional stay, concurrently (rather than sequentially) with other programs. There are no maximum or minimum thresholds for the number of days before a veteran may start to work with HUD-VASH. However, the target population of HUD-VASH includes those who are most at risk, vulnerable and in need of HUD-VASH, particularly those who may not “successfully” complete a transitional housing placement.

Myth #7

If a veteran has his or her voucher revoked, he or she cannot reapply to obtain another HUD-VASH voucher for one year.

Truth: There is no rule specifying a mandatory amount of time between losing a voucher and reapplication. Veterans are reconsidered on a case-by-case basis and the circumstances are discussed between the veteran, his or her case manager and the PHA. There may be extenuating factors that make immediate reapplication to the program appropriate.

For additional clarification and information, be sure to check out this Q&A as well as the HUD-VASH overview page from HUD.