Demand for Services to Homeless Veterans Exceeds VA Program Capacity

HEHS-94-98: Published: Feb 23, 1994. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) activities related to homeless veterans, focusing on VA: (1) interaction with federal, state, local, and private organizations that provide services for homeless veterans; (2) discharge planning for homeless patients at VA medical facilities; and (3) progress in evaluating homeless veterans' needs.

GAO found that: (1) in two of the eight locations reviewed, VA staff coordinate with federal, state, local, and private organizations that deal with homeless veterans and have a strong personal commitment and management support to help the homeless; (2) VA has a wide range of facilities and programs to help homeless veterans in these locations; (3) in one location, VA has no outreach program for homeless veterans because it has no facilities in the immediate area; (4) in another location, VA staff believe homeless efforts are futile because VA and community homeless programs are filled to capacity; (5) VA interaction with homeless-care providers at other locations depends on many diverse factors; (6) current VA programs do not adequately meet the needs of homeless veterans; (7) VA staff seldom monitor discharged veterans' progress after their release from VA inpatient facilities; (8) VA has not compiled the comprehensive inventory of homeless veterans' needs as required; and (9) VA is developing guidance for its medical centers and regional benefits offices to determine homeless veterans' needs and issue action plans by 1995.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs concurred with the recommendation and on December 31, 1994, issued his "First Annual Progress Report on Public Law 102-405, Section 107." The report, subtitled "Services for Homeless Veterans: Assessment and Coordination," provided Congress with information on activities carried out by medical center director and regional benefits offices to assess the needs of homeless veterans, coordinate services with non-VA organizations, develop a list of public and private programs that assist homeless persons, and encourage the development of plans to coordinate the provision of services among all public and private programs in the areas they serve. Medical center and regional office directors will, in 1995, 1996, and 1997, update the assessments and describe progress made to provide and coordinate service for homeless veterans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Health to initiate, without delay, the assessments required under section 107 of Public Law 102-405 and establish a firm date for completion of the assessments and submission of the results to the Senate and House Committees on Veterans' Affairs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs


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