Sequestration Doesn’t Hurt Veterans, Right? Well actually…

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It wasn’t too long ago when the term sequestration was one that practically no one used. Lately though, it seems that a news cast doesn’t go by without the word being mentioned. It is commonly thought that Congress and the Administration made sure sequestration would not hurt any programs that help our veterans, but that notion is false.

While Veterans Affairs (VA) programs are exempt from the cuts, non-VA programs that benefit veterans are still in line to see reductions (or to use some new inside-the-beltway jargon, “spending savings.”) More information about sequestration can be found on the NLC website.

Last week, a congressional briefing was held to outline and illustrate specific examples of how sequestration would impact veterans. One area in particular that would be impacted are non-VA housing programs including HUD’s public housing, housing vouchers, and project-based programs. Doug Rice at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities drew attention to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study which notes that in fiscal year 2005, “HUD’s rental assistance programs reached an estimated 250,000 low-income veteran households, which constituted approximately 6 percent of all HUD-assisted households.”

The housing development NLC highlighted that serves homeless veterans in Port Angeles, WA is a perfect example of a project that could be impacted. Some of this project’s capital development revenue came from the Community Development Block Program (CDBG) and a portion of the ongoing operational revenue comes from project-based vouchers, both of which are subject to cuts.

This example illustrates that helping meet the needs of low-income veterans does not happen in a vacuum where only VA benefits are at work. Meeting the needs of our veterans relies on programs operated by the VA, HUD, the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Labor, and other agencies. Federal programs don’t support our veterans alone. They are often coupled with local and state resources and used to leverage private funds as well.

As our men and women return from Iraq and Afghanistan, they will need these programs to not only exist, but to be well-coordinated. A new NLC publication highlights several examples of how local officials are integral to ensuring services for veterans are successfully coordinated among stakeholders. But as the Port Angeles example shows, cities can be most effective when given the tools necessary to meet the need.