The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) created the HUD-VASH housing assistance program to assist veterans with their housing needs. HUD-VASH uses HUD housing vouchers, commonly referred to as “Section 8” vouchers, along with VA supportive services to keep veterans and their families in permanent, safe community housing.
The heart of HUD-VASH is its focus on addressing and assisting with the factors that contribute to veterans experiencing extended periods of homelessness, such as substance abuse and mental conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program issues federally funded rental assistance vouchers to qualifying applicants, which enables them to rent a housing unit that they may not be able to afford otherwise.
When this form of housing assistance is paired with VA social services, homeless veterans in need can obtain safe housing while learning how to achieve long term housing stability. The following sections provide detailed information about the HUD-VASH program, including its benefits, requirements and the application process for veterans.
What are the benefits of HUD-VASH?
The HUD-VASH program helps thousands of at-risk veterans and their families find safe, secure housing. Through VA health care services, program participants receive ongoing case management, counseling and other applicable clinical care services as needed.
These supportive services are uniquely tailored to each veteran or family, and those at highest risk are considered the best candidates for HUD-VASH participation. Program case managers work as liaisons between each veteran, their local Public Housing Authority (PHA) and their landlord, facilitating communication and problem-solving when situations arise.
One benefit of participating in HUD for veterans is the program’s flexibly. Because it is designed to meet the changing needs of at-risk veterans, participants may remain on the program as long as they need it, provided that they continue to qualify. Although there is no set ending time for participating in HUD-VASH, veterans must be recertified on an annual basis according to their functional abilities and financial status.
Participants are not required to meet a set period of sobriety or adhere strictly to case management services to maintain their qualifications for a HUD-VASH voucher. However, participants who refuse to comply with case management requests can be terminated from the veterans housing assistance program.
Being involved in the home selection process is another benefit of the HUD-VASH program. Participants may choose any housing unit that is affordable, that has a landlord willing to rent to the veteran and that meets PHA standards. HUD-VASH participants have some flexibility in the area they choose to live, within certain limits.
Although participants in traditional Section 8 voucher programs are required to live in a certain area for a set period of time, HUD-VASH participants may choose to live in a town or neighborhood beyond the immediate area of their VA case manager. All program housing units must be inspected regularly to ensure that the home continues to meet local PHA minimum quality standards.
Veterans are encouraged to select an apartment or rental home that fits their needs, but must choose a unit with a rental rate comparable to the amount of rent charged for similar units in the same neighborhood. HUD-VASH requires participants to pay a percentage of their income toward rent, usually between 10 and 30 percent. Then HUD pays the remaining rent amount directly to the landlord or housing authority.
If a participant experiences an employment gap or another kind of financial setback that prevents them from paying their portion of the rent, he or she may request a hardship exemption until the situation improves.
What are the requirements for HUD-VASH benefits?
Eligibility requirements for HUD-VASH candidates are set by the VA and the local public housing authority. The VA determines each veteran’s clinical eligibility while the PHA sets income limits and makes sure participants meet HUD regulations. Veterans interested in HUD-VASH must first meet the definition of homelessness detailed in the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act as amended by S. 896.
The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009. This act outlines which living situations define homelessness, including living in a shelter, living outside or otherwise lacking a fixed, regular nighttime residence.
After meeting this definition, program candidates must meet these additional requirements:
- Participating veterans must need case management services to receive and maintain independent housing. Case management goals are personalized and can include substance use recovery, keeping medical and mental health appointments or learning how to live on a budget.
- Veterans must be willing to participate in these case management services, work toward treatment goals and follow recommendations until the VA Medical Center (VAMC) determines that services are no longer necessary.
- Veterans need to be well enough to complete common activities of daily living and be able to live independently with the help of VA case management services.
- Participants must remain within income thresholds presented by the PHA.
- Veterans receiving a HUD-VASH housing subsidy must abide by the terms of their lease, pay for utilities not included in the lease agreement and pay their percentage of the rent on time.
HUD-VASH is designed for the veteran, so he or she must live in the dwelling with his or her family members. Participants must understand and adhere to the basic obligations of tenancy, including not engaging in criminal activity, not damaging the property and not interfering with other residents’ ability to enjoy their own housing.
How to Apply for HUD-VASH
Veterans are often referred to the HUD-VASH program by a VA clinician or a local community service provider. If you are not already working with a VA health care provider, you may apply for the HUD-VASH program by connecting with the VA’s homeless veterans’ services department. You may also visit your local VA Medical Center in person and ask to speak to a Homeless Coordinator about the HUD-VASH application process.
A trained VA responder will conduct a brief screening interview to determine your HUD-VASH qualifications, including your clinical need for participation. If eligible, you will receive a written referral to take to your local housing authority.
The PHA representative will conduct his or her own interview to further determine your HUD-VASH eligibility. Because HUD only issues a limited number of vouchers in each county, applicants may be waitlisted until benefits are available.