Homeless Veterans Programs: Improved Communications and Follow-up Could Further Enhance the Grant and Per Diem Program

GAO-06-859 Published: Sep 11, 2006. Publicly Released: Sep 11, 2006.
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About one-third of the nation's adult homeless population are veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Many of these veterans have experienced substance abuse, mental illness, or both. The VA's Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, which is up for reauthorization, provides transitional housing to help veterans prepare for permanent housing. As requested, GAO reviewed (1) VA homeless veterans estimates and the number of transitional housing beds, (2) the extent of collaboration involved in the provision of GPD and related services, and (3) VA's assessment of GPD program performance. GAO analyzed VA data and methods used for the homeless estimates and performance assessment, and visited selected GPD providers in four states to observe the extent of collaboration.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Veterans Affairs To improve and evaluate the GPD program, and to aid GPD providers in better understanding the GPD policies and procedures, VA should take steps to ensure that its policies are understood by the staff and providers who are to implement them. For example, VA could make more information, such as issues discussed during conference calls, available in writing or online, hold an annual conference, or provide training that may also include local VA staff.
Closed – Implemented
In 2006, VA reported it had developed a program handbook that is accessible via VA's intranet site and a training regimen for Grant and Per Diem (GPD) liaisons that includes a feedback mechanism to determine the extent to which liaisons use the training in practice. VA also reported it had appointed a national clinical manager to serve as an expert on veteran care and program design issues and to facilitate monthly conference calls for GDP liaisons, network homeless coordinators, and providers. In 2007, VA reported it contacted new GPD providers to explain policies and procedures and that the agency summarized their regular and quarterly conference call results on a new webpage to ensure that all providers received the same information. In addition, VA reported it conducted its first two-day training conference for new GPD liaisons in February 2009, which provided an overview of the role and responsibilities of the liaison position. A second conference is reportedly scheduled for later in the year.
Department of Veterans Affairs To improve and evaluate the GPD program, and to better understand the circumstances of veterans after they leave the GPD program, VA should explore feasible and cost-effective ways to obtain such information, where possible using data from GPD providers and other VA sources. For example, VA could review ways to use the data from its own follow-up health assessments and from GPD providers who collect follow-up information on the circumstances of veterans whom they have served.
Closed – Implemented
In 2009, VA reported their program evaluation center implemented a new follow-up form, which is part of a larger online data collection system, to collect data on the status of veterans one month after leaving the program. The form collects such information as housing and employment status, whether the veteran is a substance abuser, and whether the veteran in receiving mental health treatment.

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