(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their concern about the placement of homeless female veterans in unsecure housing in Chicago, which jeopardized their safety. Chairman Murray and Senator Durbin’s letter asks VA for assurances that homeless female veterans across the country who are being cared for by the Department are housed in appropriate, safe and secure conditions.
The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
The Honorable Eric Shinseki
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding the privacy, safety, and security of homeless female veterans who participate in the grant and per diem (GPD) program. As you know, women veterans are more likely than their male counterparts to become homeless, and VA must be prepared to serve the unique needs of this growing population.
We were recently informed that several homeless female veterans were placed with a provider in Chicago, Illinois, which was only approved to house male veterans. As you know, sexual trauma and domestic violence are prevalent in the homeless women veteran population. Furthermore, placing these women into a mixed-gender environment often exacerbates their trauma. While we understand VA has taken immediate action to remove the women veterans from this facility and to immediately stop per diem payments to this provider, the failure to mitigate the privacy, safety and security risks for these female veterans is simply unacceptable.
Although this appears to be an isolated incident, the problems raised in Chicago do call into question the Department’s ability to exercise effective oversight over its GPD grantees and to provide the type of care that homeless female veterans truly need and deserve. In order to ensure that a situation like this never occurs again, we request that you provide us with the results of an inventory of active GPD grantees to certify that there are no ongoing inappropriate placements of homeless female veterans at other facilities or housing situations. Please also provide a description of the measures VA is taking to ensure that homeless female veterans are not housed in inappropriate housing situations in the future, including a description of the grantee inspection process. We expect a detailed briefing to our staffs on these matters as soon as possible.
Secretary Shinseki, we appreciate your commitment to ensuring the highest quality care for homeless veterans. We are grateful for the leadership you have displayed in fighting to end veteran homelessness once and for all and look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve this mutual goal.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Chairman Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee
U.S. Senator Richard Durbin
Senate Majority Whip