Can Veterans Fall Off the Fiscal Cliff?

written by Emanuel Cavallaro
December 13, 2012

As we approach the fiscal cliff, there is a common misperception that, since Congress exempted all programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from sequestration in the Budget Control Act of 2011, programs that assist low-income and homeless veterans are safe from spending cuts. That’s not quite true.

Low-income and homeless veterans receive a lot of assistance from HUD funded programs as well as from VA, which means cuts to domestic discretionary spending under sequestration would have serious consequences for the most vulnerable of them. This budgetary impasse has the potential to undo our historic progress toward ending veteran homelessness (a 17.2 percent reduction since 2009).

On Thursday, December 6, the Alliance and its partners took this message to the senate, at a congressional hearing, “Discretionary Budget Cuts: Impact on Veterans,” which was hosted by the Homeless Veterans National Advocacy Working Group.

We were joined by Jonathan Harwitz, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who you can see in this video explaining how important the interagency collaboration between HUD and VA has been to reducing the number of homeless veterans, (down 7 percent from last year) and how cuts to discretionary domestic spending threaten their efforts.

Also on the panel was Michael DeHart, the Housing Coordinator for Community Connections, a HUD-funded assistance services provider that serves veterans. He spoke about the clients that his program serves, and elaborated on the real human cost of the spending cuts.

A client of Community Connections and a formerly homeless, Shauna Curley, bravely shared her moving story, and described how DeHart’s program helped her and her children get back on their feet.

Lastly, Doug Rice, a Senior Policy Analyst from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, spoke about the realities of the budgetary impasse, describing where the spending cuts will be made and explaining that a deal to avert sequestration might also lead to spending cuts that could hurt low-income and homeless veterans.