HUD-VASH is a collaborative benefit provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA HUD-VASH was designed to help veterans who are experiencing homelessness find permanent housing for themselves and their families.
The program is administered in part by local public housing agencies (PHAs), which receive special housing vouchers from the HUD in order to assist veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Those who participate in the program can receive housing and access to VA health care services such as substance abuse counseling and other mental health resources.
The HUD-VASH program has helped thousands of veterans since it began in 2008. Each year, the HUD evaluates data to determine which areas have the highest numbers of homeless veterans. Next, PHAs in those areas are encouraged to apply for vouchers, which are made available just for homeless veterans. With how widespread the program is, there is at least one site in every state where veterans can apply for vouchers that will help them find permanent housing. Veterans can learn more about the eligibility requirements for this program and discover how the application process works in the sections below.
In general, the qualifications for VA HUD-VASH are the same as those for other housing choice voucher programs, such as Section 8. With that in mind, HUD-VASH income limits are generally the same as those for other Section 8 programs or public housing projects. Income limits vary based on where a veteran lives, as the cost of living is different from one state or metropolitan area to the next.
While many of the program qualifications are the same, the HUD has waived certain requirements in order to make the program more effective. Furthermore, the HUD may create additional eligibility criteria that are specific to veterans in order to make sure applicants with the greatest need can receive benefits first. For example, PHAs are not allowed to place HUD-VASH veterans onto a waiting list, as they would do for most other housing voucher applicants. Instead, VA Medical Centers (VMACs) refer veterans to PHAs directly after screening participants for eligibility. Other housing voucher applicants do not get to benefit from direct referrals. Veterans who do not qualify for participation in HUD VASH may be eligible for other programs, such as adaptive housing grants.
In order to receive a HUD-VASH voucher, a veteran will need to meet three main requirements. First, he or she must be a “VA health care eligible veteran.” A veteran is eligible for VA health care benefits if he or she separated from military service under any condition other than dishonorable. Furthermore, a veteran needs to have served for 24 continuous months if he or she enlisted after September 7, 1980 or was put on active duty after October 16, 1981.
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The second eligibility requirement for HUD-VASH is that veterans must meet the definition for homelessness as described by The McKinney Homelessness Assistance Act. Under this act, a veteran is considered homeless if he or she:
Lastly, veterans can only qualify for HUD-VASH vouchers if they require case management services. A veteran may be eligible for case management if he or she has a substance abuse disorder, a physical disability or a serious mental illness. When evaluating a veteran’s qualifications for HUD-VASH, VAMCs may give preference to veterans who have the most serious mental health issues, as well as those who visit the emergency room frequently or have undergone unsuccessful treatments in the past.
While HUD-VASH generally removes some of the barriers that prevent veterans from finding affordable housing, it is important to be aware of the factors that may make a veteran ineligible. Most importantly, veterans cannot receive a HUD-VASH voucher if they are required to maintain a lifetime sexual offender registry status. However, if a veteran has a family member with this status, the veteran may still be approved, while the offending family member will be barred from the program.
In most public housing projects and units that provide Section 8 housing, PHAs will deny applicants who have a criminal history or abuse alcohol or drugs. However, VMACs are responsible for screening HID VASH participants, not individual PHAs. As a result, veterans may be eligible to receive a voucher when one of these criteria is present, even if they would not be approved under standard PHA screening guidelines.
If you would like to apply for HUD-VASH, there are several ways to become a candidate. There is no paper application or online form that you can fill out to apply for this program. Instead, this is a referral-based program, meaning that you must reach out to a local coordinator for help or receive application information from a different VA or homelessness program.
If you are experiencing homelessness, the best way to get help is to call the National Homeless Veteran Call Center (NHVCC), which can provide a variety of resources on VA programs that you may be eligible for. The NHVCC can be reached at 877-424-3838 (877-4AID VET) at any time day or night, seven days a week. Once you make this call, a NHVCC representative will connect you to a homelessness specialist at the nearest VA facility.
You can also submit a HUD-VASH application by contacting a local VA homelessness program directly. If you are receiving housing assistance from a different VA program, your case manager can also provide a referral to the HUD-VASH program so that you can receive the help you need.
Upon being approved for a voucher, you will have at least 120 days to find a unit to rent. You can lease from a public housing project or from a landlord who provides Section 8 housing units. On the other hand, you may choose to live on the grounds of a VMAC in a unit that is owned by the VA.
In the event that you want to move, HUD-VASH vouchers are “portable”, meaning that you can move to a new area and use your voucher there. Keep in mind that the new area must have case management services available. Any time you consider moving, you must notify the VA to make sure you are following the correct procedures and to ensure that you can receive case management services in the new area.
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