Late Breaking News
Programs Paid to Provide Housing and Services to Homeless Veterans Falling Short of Mission
By Stephen Spotswood
WASHINGTON--Many of the VA-funded providers of housing and services to homeless veterans fail to meet even the basic needs of the population they are meant to service, according to an audit by VA’s Office of Inspector General (IG).
The audit found that VA is in need of better ways to track compliance among its Grant and Per Diem (GPD) providers and to oversee how veterans are treated.
VA’s GDP program fund community agencies providing service and transitional housing for homeless veterans. The program, which has served more than 100,000 veterans since its inception in 1994, offers support services to 515 projects providing approximately 12,000 housing beds throughout the country, Puerto Rico and Guam.
The IG audit found a lack of program safety, security, health and welfare standards, as well as an incomplete application-evaluation process and an inconsistent monitoring program. These deficiencies detracted from the program’s effectiveness and subsequently the health and well-being of the veteran population it was meant to help.
According to the audit, 31% of providers reviewed did not adequately address veterans’ safety, security or privacy risks. IG investigators found bedrooms and bathrooms without sufficient locks, halls and stairs without sufficient lighting and a lack of gender-exclusive facilities. A Government Accountability Office report filed at the end of last year about female homeless veterans found a similar lack of consideration for women’s health and safety.
During field visits, investigators found that 23% of GPD program providers did not ensure safe storage of medication, including controlled narcotics such as oxycodone and Vicodin. This was more a condemnation of VA than the providers, because VA neither provides a standard for ensuring storage of medications prescribed to homeless veterans nor requires grant applicants to address the management of medications as part of the application process.
According to IG, without proper safety mechanisms for medications, the risk of misuse or overdose of medications due to theft or loss is far greater.
Also, VA does not have a way of ensuring that meals served by GPD programs are nutritionally balanced or appropriate. Investigators were concerned particularly about a lack of nutritional guidelines when it came to veterans under medical care for things such as hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes.
Investigations showed that VA medical facility nutritionists did not ensure 12% of GPD program providers offered adequate meals. They found examples where, despite their prescription by VA nutritionists, GPD providers were not serving veterans special dietary meals. A lack of follow-up by the nutritionists kept VA officials from knowing that the provider was inconsistently providing meals required by their grant.
Many of these deficiencies are a result of an inadequate application process, according to the IG report. VA does not require that grant applications document policies and procedures or that VA medical facility staff review veterans’ safety, security and privacy issues before funds are awarded.