VA Plans Change for Homeless Veterans' Care

     WASHINGTON (CN) - The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to allow homeless veterans eligible for VA health care to receive services and medical care regardless of diagnosis, it announced Thursday.
     The newly proposed VA rule, which would implement statutory changes, would replace one requiring homeless veterans to have verified severe mental illness or a substance use disorder to receive Health Care for Homeless Veterans program services. HCHV provides funding to non-VA-facilities that provide care to homeless veterans.
     When the conditions had to be verified, veterans sometimes would refuse treatment or assessment, and consequently not receive care or services to address their homelessness.
     Studies have shown that more than 85 percent of homeless veterans suffer from serious mental illness, and the VA said it hopes the rule change will allow it to provide services to the remaining 15 percent.
     The VA announced in 2009 that it hoped to end veteran homelessness by 2015. According to an agency study last year, homelessness among veterans dropped by 24 percent between 2010 and 2013.
     While the VA admitted there likely still will be veterans on the streets after 2015, it said it hopes its programs ensure no veteran is homeless for extended periods.
     Some veterans' advocates are skeptical of the VA's goal of ending homelessness among veterans, especially because funding for veterans will be reduced after 2015.
     "With more troops leaving the military, this is an especially vulnerable time when we've seen homelessness go up," Steve Peck, president of the U.S. Veterans Initiative. "Just because the VA says it's over, doesn't mean it is. We're still seeing plenty of need."
     Comments on the proposed rule are due by July 15.