What Is the Veterans HUD-VASH Program, and How Does It Work?

Photo Courtesy: SDI Productions/iStock

HUD-VASH is a joint program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Its goal is to provide permanent housing and supportive services to veterans who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness and their families. VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) refers to the program within the VA that supports veterans in obtaining and maintaining housing.

The HUD-VASH program combines the HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration Program with the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program to provide rental assistance and case-management services to eligible veterans and their families. HUD provides rental assistance through project-based Section 8 contracts, while the VA offers case-management services.

This program was developed in the early 1990s, but it didn’t receive much funding until the mid-2000s when veterans began returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, HUD-VASH continues pursuing its goal of ending homelessness for U.S. military veterans. To learn more about whether this program may be right for you or a loved one, find out how it works, who’s eligible and more.

What Is HUD-VASH?

The HUD is a federal agency that, among other things, runs government-funded housing assistance programs. The department delivers programs that aid older adults, families with low incomes and people with disabilities in accessing affordable and adequate housing. In addition, the VA works independently and jointly with other agencies to provide various services to veterans, including housing.

In the 1990s, the HUD joined forces with the VA to create HUD-VASH; however, the program had minimal support from the federal government. The collaboration was meant to provide affordable, decent, clean housing to veterans experiencing homelessness and their families.

In many cases, veterans who utilized the program — and continue to today — were living with physical and mental health conditions that qualified them for admission into one of the VA’s management programs. Admission into these care-management programs qualifies veterans for housing under the HUD-VASH program.

The program provides a network of supports to veterans to help them obtain sustainable, affordable, long-term housing. This case-management support ranges from substance misuse counseling to better access to mental and physical health treatment and other clinical services. The program compares to Tricare health insurance for retired military members. 

While eligible veterans are participating in these health programs, they receive vouchers for housing. These vouchers cover a portion of rent payments at market-rate properties. Landlords are paid these HUD-VASH subsidies directly, and participating veterans are responsible for covering the remainder of their rent each month.

Photo Courtesy: SDI Productions/iStock

Who’s Eligible for HUD-VASH?

The HUD-VASH program is for American veterans, but not all veterans qualify. The program applies to veterans who:

  • Are unhoused
  • Qualify for VA healthcare services
  • Require case management to maintain a home
  • Want to improve their living situation by liaising with a VA case manager
  • Have an ongoing need for case management due to substance misuse, mental health conditions or other health concerns

How to Get a HUD-VASH Voucher

A HUD-VASH voucher pays off a portion of the veteran’s rent to the landlord. Generally, veterans contribute 30% to 40% of their gross monthly income toward rent. Their ongoing case management provides resources that facilitate communication between the tenant and the landlord as well.

If you’re a military veteran who’s experiencing homelessness, the first step in seeking housing is to contact your local VA program for homeless families. There, a clinician can assess you and refer you to the HUD-VASH admission team for an eligibility evaluation. The team can also assess your need for case management.

Once you’ve been admitted to the program, the team assigns you a case manager. The case manager works with you to create a service plan to help you access your required resources.

The team can also help you obtain a Section 8 HUD voucher. This voucher pays rental income to private landlords on your behalf from the U.S. government. The HUD makes the program possible by providing funds to public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs then locally administer the vouchers to eligible veterans.

Once you receive a voucher, the team helps you locate a suitable home within your community. In most cases, the rental property is privately owned, and the landlord must agree to rent their property under the program’s guidelines.

After establishing tenancy, you can expect regular home visits from your case manager. The visits help the manager address issues as they occur to help you maintain the house.

Notably, the VASH program for veterans has no limit. However, it’s possible to be discontinued from the program. If you refuse VA case management, you can lose your Section 8 voucher and the housing opportunities that come with it. For further assistance, you can contact the VA using the veterans’ helpline number available on the VA website.

Photo Courtesy: Motortion/iStock

Common Questions About HUD-VASH 

Do PHAs Screen Veterans?

PHAs do not screen veterans for housing. The VA medical center qualifies veterans for housing using an assessment called the Homeless Screener Clinical Reminder. Eligible veterans who agree to case management are referred to PHAs for Section 8 housing vouchers. A PHA can deny admission if the veteran or one of their household members is tied to a lifetime registration requirement based on their state’s sex offender registration program.

Do VASH Vouchers Limit Mobility?

In most cases, veterans may choose their preferred area of living while participating in the program. However, the voucher still limits veterans; they must live within the jurisdiction of their local Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). This means veterans don’t have to live within the issuing PHA’s jurisdiction.

Notably, the choice of living should be within the VAMC’s jurisdiction to make it easier for case managers to provide services. Veteran participants can move states or over a long distance if the receiving PHA has a voucher available and the VAMC in the new area can provide case-management services.

Can PHAs Terminate Tenancy?

PHAs are not allowed to terminate tenancy for reasons that would not deny a veteran admission to the program. However, the HUD-VASH team can end a family’s residency for term violations after admission. If a PHA decides to initiate termination action, it must do so with the VA case manager.

Can a HUD-VASH Family Participate in the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program?

Yes, a veteran can apply for the Family Self-Sufficiency program. The FSS program helps families living under the HUD program increase their income and reduce the need for financial assistance. FSS personnel work with the VA to ensure the program doesn’t conflict with case-management needs. For more information on the HUD-VASH program, you can contact the VA using the veterans’ affairs phone directory.

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