(Washington, D.C.) – A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today showed that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has had difficulty in planning for and meeting the unique needs of a growing number of homeless women veterans. The study, which was requested by U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, is one of the first of its kind to examine the troubling rise in homelessness among women who have served.
Among the key findings in the report the GAO found that:
• VA has limited data on the number and needs of homeless women veterans, and therefore has difficulty planning to meet their unique needs;
• Homeless women veterans are not always aware of the services available to them;
• VA is unevenly implementing its process to refer homeless veterans to emergency shelter until they are admitted into transitional or permanent housing programs;
• Facilities have difficulty providing for the children of homeless veterans, and
• VA lacks minimum standards for the privacy, safety, and security of women veterans in mixed-gender housing facilities.
“While we have seen a decrease in the overall number of homeless veterans, the number and needs of homeless women veterans across the country are growing and the VA is struggling to keep up,” said Chairman Murray. “I’ve been sounding the alarm that these veterans, many of whom are also struggling to provide for their children, are going to need unique attention from the VA. But as this report shows, the VA has not properly planned for or met the unique needs of these veterans. I’m going to be working to ensure that the recommendations in this report, including increased collaboration between VA and HUD, are followed. I’ll also be working to make sure that as more women return from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA is keeping pace with the need to track and provide the services that they need.”
Senator Murray has been a leader in calling for increased services for women veterans, including those who have become homeless. Last Congress, she enacted legislation to create an employment program for homeless women veterans, including those with children. This year, she passed legislation, which extends VA’s transitional housing programs for special populations, including women with children. She is also continuing to advocate for a legislative provision, included in S. 914, that authorizes VA to pay for the children of homeless veterans in the Grant and Per Diem program. Senator Murry intends to explore this issue, and others at a hearing on veteran homelessness shortly.