The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (VASH) is a general support service to help military veterans find permanent homes. HUD VASH is a joint effort program between Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VASH housing for veterans is a relatively new program, first being introduced in the mid 2000’s, but undergoing many developments since the initial introduction. In 2016 and 2017, the program received a significant increasing in funding, ensuring public housing agencies in each state had the resources to assist homeless veterans.
The program provides eligible veterans with a HUD VASH voucher, which is almost identical to the housing vouchers used in traditional HUD programs. While section 8 for veterans is sometimes used as an informal name for the program, it is important to note the program is distinct from the actual section 8 housing program. The base section 8 program does provide additional assistance to veterans, but not as much as HUD-VASH. The two programs also have vastly different eligibility requirements.
VA Housing Voucher Eligibility
A common criticism of the previous HUD VASH program was the strict eligibility requirements, which meant many veterans were unable to get assistance. Previously, you could only apply for HUD VASH if you were suffering from a chronic mental illness or a substance abuse disorder. The veterans housing authority has since removed this requirement, and now the program is open to all HUD-VASH veterans, as well as their families, who are homeless.
The HUD VASH application uses specific requirements to define homeless. You must either lack a primary nighttime residence, or your nighttime residence is a public or private space normally not designed for regular sleeping accommodations.
Additionally, if you are residing in a supervised shelter or receiving other temporary housing assistance from a state, government, or veteran housing program, you are also eligible to participate in HUD VASH.
To determine your VASH eligibility, you must be screened by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). This is primarily for your benefit, ensuring you are healthy enough to live in veteran housing on your own without additional assistance. It also gives the VA the opportunity to confirm your identity and status in the military.
If you meet the HUD VASH eligibility requirements, the VAMC will appoint a case worker to help you find and sustain independent housing. Your case worker will direct you to the nearest PHA in your state, where you go through a second screening process. The PHA screening looks at your income status. You will not be denied VASH housing for veterans if you are currently employed or have another source of income.
The PHA only needs to know this information to get a better idea of your living needs and help place you in the right home. If you owe money, even for a criminal offense, the PHA cannot deny your application. The only instance where the PHA can deny a HUD VASH application is if you are subject to a lifetime registration under a state sex offender registry.
Working with the PHA
Your veteran housing authority caseworker will work alongside PHA agents to help you find a home. Before you start looking for HUD VASH apartments or homes, the PHA explains all of the rules of the program and how the vouchers work.
The HUD VASH voucher does not have any inherent monetary value. Instead, the voucher is a waiver for your rent payments. How much the voucher covers varies depending on your financial situation. In most cases, the voucher will cover the entirety of your rent.
HUD VASH vouchers can only be used at approved locations participating in the HUD program. The PHA has a list of approved homes. Before you can move into a HUD VASH apartment, your PHA agent must inspect the home to make sure it meets all the proper safety standards. There are a variety of homes to choose from, some intended for single occupants, while others are family units.
You have 120 days from being accepted into HUD VASH to select your home. If you do not find a home within this period, you can request an extension, but you must prove you were actively looking during your initial period. If you are approved for an extension, you have an additional 120 days to find housing. While you are searching, your caseworker will help you find temporary shelter and ensure you receive any necessary medical treatments or counseling.
How long you can stay in a HUD VASH apartment or home varies based on your personal situation. The goal of the program is not only to provide you with stable housing, but also to help you build up the necessary resources where you can afford your own housing. In most cases, veterans sign a 12-month lease.
If you already have a steady source of income and believe you will be able to move into your own location after a few months, you may sign a shorter lease. This will not be forced, but you are encouraged not to overextend your stay so there are more locations available for other veterans.
The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program requires you to meet with your case worker when requested to retain eligibility. Your case worker makes sure you and your family are comfortable in your home and have the chance to either look for work, continue your education or receive job training. If you require medical treatment or therapy, your case worker will help you arrange free transportation to get to your appointments.
You are allowed to remain in HUD VASH even if a case worker is no longer needed. Typically, if you do not need a case worker, the VA allows you to stay in your home for the remainder of your lease, then moves you into the traditional HUD program.
This will require you to move into a different home, but you are still issued housing vouchers to cover the rental costs. You will never be forced to leave your VASH apartment or home before a suitable replacement HUD house is available for you and your family.